West Coast Labor Dispute Hitting Midwest

Jan 7, 2015

An ongoing labor dispute at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is starting to impact Iowa.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, says he’s asking the federal government to do all it can to help workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union reach a contract agreement with shipping companies. He hopes to prevent farmers and other business owners in the Midwest from losing access to the ports, where work has slowed after several months of negotiations.

"I was informed by constituents, meaning Iowa constituents, that at least one major U.S. railroad has already stopped accepting container shipments bound for the West Coast ports as a result of the backlog of containers at the port," Grassley says.

Grassley didn't specify in what part of the state those concerns were voiced, nor what commodity Iowans were trying to ship by rail.

Grassley says the delays, particularly if they continue, will send economic ripples not just across the country but potentially around the world. That's because of increasing international trade, which could grow even faster if a 12-country trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets approved.

"Trade is vitally important to Iowa, and if Congress can soon finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the volume of goods going through the West Coast ports will further increase," says Grassley. "But no trade agreement will work if the ports aren’t operating at a capacity to handle the current demands of the global economy."

Once the labor dispute is resolved, the ports should return to full capacity.  

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced this week it will get involved and Grassley says he's sent a letter to the Obama administration supporting federal involvement in ending the dispute.