For nine months, negotiators for the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been unsuccessful in crafting a labor agreement to replace the contract that ended on July 1, 2014.  The PMA represents the shippers that use the West Coast ports of the United States to import and export products. The ILWU represents 20,000 longshoremen that work the ports.

Last week PMA and ILWU engaged in dueling press releases to communicate with the public. PMA cited its most recent contract offer and statistics about labor slowdowns at the ports. ILWU said that negotiators were very close to agreement and that PMA was threatening the process.The number of persons who are negatively impacted by these negotiations is growing every day. They include thousands of companies who import and export from America’s West Coast ports and millions of workers whose jobs depend on imports and exports. Losers include retailers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, truckers, railroads and consumers across America. Both union and non-union employees have lost working hours.

In 2002, when West Coast ports were shut down for 10 days, the estimated economic loss was one billion dollars per day. The estimated loss in 2015 is two billion dollars per day.

In 2002, President Bush used the Taft-Hartley Act to force both sides back to work and back to the bargaining table to finish their contract negotiations. We believe that President Obama should use the same strategy if there is a lock-out or strike in 2015. We also believe that President Obama should immediately signal his intent to use this strategy to create a clear incentive for negotiators to agree to a solution.

I urge all of our business owners, employee groups and business owners to send this same message to President Obama, PMA and ILWU. Somebody has to speak up for Americans who are not at the PMA/ILWU bargaining table but who have jobs and economic well-being to lose if our ports do not return to maximum operating efficiency.