Despite reports of progress in the ongoing labor talks between East Coast longshoremen and the US shipping fleet, retail and apparel trade groups have reiterated their concern over a possible strike that may cripple the US’s East Coast ports just as those retailers are stocking up for the holiday season.
The strike became a matter for concern after contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), representing the interests of dockworkers, and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), representing the interests of shipping vessels, came to a standstill without a contract agreement having been reached. The current contract between the two parties expires on September 30. If a new contract is not cemented before that date, ILA workers are committed to striking.
Though the potential strike would only affect ports on the US’s Eastern Seaboard, through which pass roughly 20% of the country’s apparel imports, such a work stoppage would nonetheless prove detrimental to apparel importers, especially as they gear up for the holiday shopping season.
In an open letter to the ILA and USMX, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which represents the US’s top 30 commercial retailers, urged both parties to reach an agreement before the September 30 deadline.
The ILA and USMX reported that “substantial progress” was achieved during their latest round of negotiations, which took place last week. However, an agreement still eludes the two groups.
In lieu of a solidified contract, retailers are turning to costly contingency plans. Foremost among these plans is a diversion of cargo to ports in Mexico and California, a practice that many retailers have committed to engaging by the end of July.