Arlington, VA (BBN)– The US apparel and footwear importers and retailers have called on President Barack Obama’s intervention to prevent a port strike along the US East and Gulf Coasts at the end of the year.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) said if no deal is reached in contact negotiations between the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) by December 29 this year, widespread work stoppages will bring US ports from Texas to Maine to a standstill.
“Because 98 percent of the apparel and 99 percent of the footwear sold in the United States is produced internationally, four million workers in the U.S. apparel and footwear industry rely on operational ports for their livelihoods,” AAFA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke said.
“If the economic damage done during the west coast strike is any example, we hope all parties are negotiating in earnest to prevent a strike from ever occurring.  This includes President Obama.”
Last week’s work stoppage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach caused significant delays and economic losses for the U.S. apparel and footwear industry.  
While it will be several months until the industry is able to identify the full economic impact of the strike, early estimates are in the millions of dollars.  
One AAFA-member company alone has already spent more than $1 million in contingency planning, including identifying alternate shipping methods and routes. 
On top of the immediate transportation cost increases, the industry could be faced with more economic losses in the form of chargebacks from retailers for missed or delayed deliveries caused by work stoppages at the ports.
The AAFA has implored the President to intercede in the east coast port labour negotiations to reach a deal before the current contract expires on December 29, 2012, in order to prevent similar losses along the entire east coast. 
Citing national and economic security concerns, the AAFA also encouraged the President in the event of a strike at the east coast ports to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, federal law that would keep the ports at full operational capacity while a deal is reached, according to a statement.
The AAFA is the national trade association representing apparel, footwear and other sewn products companies, and their suppliers, which compete in the global market. 
BBN/SSR/AD-14Dec12-7:30 pm (BST)