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Federal Mediator to Help Settle West Coast Port Contract Conflict

A federal mediator has agreed to step in to help settle the now nearly nine-month long labor contract talks between the West Coast dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and their employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The PMA sought federal mediation last month and the White House had reportedly monitoring the contact dispute, though President Obama said in November that the two sides should be able to settle their own conflicts through collective bargaining.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced its involvement late Monday based on “a joint request for assistance.” Though the move won’t mean the port terminals clear and get back to business as usual, mediators have, in the past, proven productive in contract disputes.

The PMA said Friday that port congestion had reached a “breaking point,” as a shortage of qualified crane operators have worsened the ports’ pile-ups.

The ILWU has largely been mum on the topic over the past months.