Gov. Rick Scott called for Pres. Obama to take emergency measures to halt an impending shut down of the nation’s ports stemming from a labor dispute.
Joined by the state’s ports directors on a conference call on Thursday, Scott said the shut down of ports throughout the state of Florida would lead to unacceptable job losses and economic turmoil.
“We are together on this call today for one reason – we must help the Florida families whose jobs and livelihoods depend on our Florida ports,” Scott said. “A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families.”
Scott wrote a letter to Obama last week asking for the president to invoke presidential powers to halt a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association. He said he “hoped” the president had read the letter, indicating that Obama had not yet responded.
The national strike is scheduled to go forward on Saturday if there is no agreement for a new contract. It could have a multimillion-dollar impact in Florida, where the massive port of Miami is located.
A top Democrat in the Florida Legislature was quick to react to Scott’s mention of “families,” pivoting to other state issues that affect families—namely, healthcare and education.
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, blasted the governor’s move to intervene in the labor dispute while other state issues linger.
“President Obama will determine what is best regarding the looming strike at the nation’s East Coast ports,” said Thurston, in a statement that asked Scott to focus on implementing healthcare reform and addressing education issues. “Governor Scott can turn his attention to Florida and begin correcting all that he has managed to dismantle.”
Scott’s press release and the response release from Thurston are below:
GOV. SCOTT: A SHUTDOWN OF FLORIDA PORTS IS NOT AN OPTION
TALLAHASSEE – Today, Governor Scott held a press conference call with Florida port leaders to discuss the importance of Florida’s ports during the ongoing negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) regarding their contract, which is set to expire Saturday, December 29th.
Governor Scott said, “We are together on this call today for one reason – we must help the Florida families whose jobs and livelihoods depend on our Florida ports. As we talk today, two groups – the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance – continue to negotiate their contract that is set to expire Saturday, December 29th – a deadline that is quickly approaching. 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. 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.
“Our ports are such a vital part of our job market, we have made them a top investment priority during my administration. In the last three years, we invested $421 million in our ports to take advantage of the benefits of trade with Central and South America, and to prepare our state for the expansion of the Panama Canal and the potential for increased trade with Asia. In fact, I have personally visited some of these countries on trade missions to highlight the value of our Florida ports and the quality of our workforce.”
Governor Scott sent a letter to President Obama last week asking him to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent a possible work stoppage that could shut down ports if no agreement is reached between the two groups before the contract expires Saturday. President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartly Act in 2002 to end a shutdown on the West Coast that disrupted supply chains nationwide and cost an estimated $1 billion a day. Florida port leaders think that a strike would be even worse than the West Coast strike of 2002. That means more than $1 billion a day would not go into the economy to support Florida families.
Cargo-related activity at Florida seaports currently generates more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida, and contributes approximately $66 billion in economic value to the economy.
Bill Johnson, Port Director for PortMiami and Chairman of the Florida Ports Council said, “PortMiami contributes more than $18 billion annually to the South Florida economy. We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached and a strike avoided. There are no "winners" in a strike. A disruption of cargo flow in and out of our ports would have a negative effect on the national economy and reverse any gains we have made in job growth this year. PortMiami, along with all Florida Ports, is working with Governor Scott’s office in asking that labor talks continue.”
Doug Wheeler, President of the Florida Ports Council said, “With more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and $66 billion in annual economic value tied to port activity into the state, we are hopeful that negotiations between the ILA and USMX will be productive and avert a possible strike. Halting even a fraction would not only negatively impact ports, but all Floridians, from truck driver to consumer, as well as jobs and goods along the entire supply chain.”
Chris Kauffmann, Chief Operating Officer of JAXPORT said, "JAXPORT supports more than 65 thousand jobs and generates $19 billion in annual economic impact for the North Florida region. While this potential action would impact a portion of the cargo handled at Jacksonville's public seaport terminals, we are monitoring the situation closely as our main mission as a landlord port is to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of goods for all of our tenants. We are grateful for Governor Scott's leadership on this issue and join our fellow Florida seaports in hoping for a swift resolution to this situation."
Steve Cernak, Port Director for Port Everglades said, “Cargo business at Port Everglades contributes approximately $13.5 billion worth of business activity to Florida’s economy annually and supports nearly 150,000 jobs statewide. While only a portion of our cargo business will be affected by an ILA strike, we applaud Governor Scott for actively seeking federal intervention to prevent a strike and keep workers on the job.”
Paul Anderson, Port Director for Port of Tampa said, “The Port of Tampa handled about 35 million tons of cargo in Fiscal Year 2012, contributes an annual economic impact of almost $8 billion and supports almost 100,000 direct, indirect, induced or other related jobs in West Central Florida. Governor Scott has been a tireless advocate on behalf of the Florida port system and the Tampa Port Authority supports the Governor’s efforts urging prompt resolution of the new master agreement between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, prior to the pending strike deadline.”
Stan Payne, Port Director for Port Canaveral said, “With Port Canaveral significantly growing its cargo business and the possibility of cruise business being affected by the ILA contract issues, we are hopeful that the negotiations will result in a quick resolution. We are thankful for Governor Scott’s actions in championing a resolution in order to prevent any disruption to Florida’s economy.”
Florida House Democratic Leadership Response to Governor Scott Statement About Ports and Florida Families
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House Democratic Caucus Leader Perry Thurston (D-Plantation) issued the following statement concerning remarks made today by Governor Rick Scott.
“Florida House Democratic Caucus members wish to thank Governor Scott for his newly discovered interest in Florida’s families. We agree that the ongoing contract negotiations and a potential ports’ strike are a serious concern to Florida’s economy and to the hundreds of thousands of jobs mentioned in the governor’s statement earlier today.
“We note with interest Governor Scott’s request that the federal government involve itself in the labor dispute. We hope that the governor now turns his attention to other critical family needs in Florida.
“Specifically, we look forward to Governor Scott's leadership on full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. We look forward to the governor's action regarding the 85,000 frail and low income seniors on waiting lists, and the 21,000-plus awaiting services for disabilities, many of whom have been waiting for years. The Florida House Democratic Caucus also looks forward to seeing the return of the $300 million dollars taken from the state’s public education system, and we look forward to a real commitment to public education for Florida families.
“President Obama will determine what is best regarding the looming strike at the nation’s East Coast ports. Governor Scott can turn his attention to Florida and begin correcting all that he has managed to dismantle.”