Port of Baltimore strike averted, at least for now -- Gazette.Net


An impending strike at the Port of Baltimore, which was expected to begin this weekend, was averted Friday after contract negotiations were extended for another month.

Discussion of an overall collective bargaining agreement will continue between the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which operates the port, and the International Longshoremen’s Association, George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, announced Friday.

“While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period,” Cohen said in a statement.

The new deadline for the parties to reach an agreement is midnight on Jan. 28.

The International Longshoremen’s Association has 14,650 workers nationwide, with 1,200 in Baltimore. The Port of Baltimore is part of the labor union’s East Coast and Gulf coverage, which includes 15 ports extending from Maine to Texas.

The port administration had been bracing for a potential strike, which likely would have had significant economic impact on the region.

A strike would have affected every importer that uses the container port, including manufacturers, truck drivers and retailers numbering in the hundreds or thousands, and would have cost the U.S. economy millions of dollars a day, according to the National Retail Federation.

With word of the extension of the contract negotiations by 30 days, retail federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said, “We welcome today’s news that a contract extension has been reached. However, we continue to urge both parties to remain at the negotiating table until a long-term contract agreement is finalized.

The last East and Gulf Coast port strike was in 1977, Shatz said. A 10-day strike of the West Coast ports in 2002 cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion a day, he said.