The ILA and USMX have been negotiating for months on a new contract, with a key sticking point being so-called container royalty fees on cargo, which supplement dockworkers' wages. Employers want to cap those fees and limit who gets them. The ILA says the royalty fees should not be changed.
"While we are encouraged that these groups continue to meet, we must bring attention to the fact that the livelihoods of thousands of Florida families hang in the balance if they do not reach an agreement by Saturday," Scott told reporters on a conference call Thursday morning. "If a strike or a lockout occurs at that time, Florida's largest ports could be shut down, sending shockwaves through jobs all across our state — including truck driver jobs, manufacturing jobs, warehousing jobs — and many jobs beyond the ports themselves. A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families."
The major Florida ports that would be affected are in Miami, Jacksonville and Port Everglades.
Today, James Harrell — the President of The International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402 based in Tampa — told CL that the strike wouldn't affect many of his workers because the Tampa Port doesn't handle much container cargo.
Directors of some of Florida's biggest ports joined Scott on the conference call, where they all prefaced their remarks by praising the governor for his advocacy of the state port system, agreeing with the governor that a labor strike is not an option.
This included Paul Anderson, who was named last week by the Tampa Port Authority to replace Richard Wainio as Port Director in Tampa. He said with the possibility of the country going over the financial "fiscal cliff" within days, the country's economy could not withstand another blow.
"This could be a 1-2 combination knockout punch for our nation's economy. It's imperative that all of us on this phone call support Gov. Scott's call for President Obama if necessary," Anderson said. "If a strike were to occur this Saturday, that the president immediately invoke the Taft-Hartley Act."
A decade ago, President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to end a lockout at ports alongside the West Coast that went on for 10 days and cost an estimated $1 billion a day, according to the National Retail Federation.
But labor analysts say Obama may be reluctant to invoke Taft-Hartley, as it would stop the Longshoremen from using their power to strike.
Scott wrote to President Obama earlier this week. He said he has not heard back from him yet.
The ILA has not gone on strike since 1977.