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NRF pushes for quick resolution to dispute in East and Gulf Coast ports

Washington -- The National Retail Federation today issued a letter to the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and United State Maritime Alliance Ltd. (USMX), urging both sides to reach an immediate contract agreement before the December 29 deadline to ensure a secure and dependable supply chain along the East and Gulf Coast ports.

The ILA and USMX have been locked in negotiations, assisted by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, since their contract expired on September 30. Another round of contract negotiations is set for next week.

"We understand and recognize that there are tough issues that need to be resolved," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo, in a letter. "The issues will only be resolved, however, by agreeing to stay at the negotiating table until a final deal is reached. Failure to reach agreement will lead to supply chain disruptions which could seriously harm the U.S. economy."

In its letter, NRF noted that supply chain stability has been seriously challenged over the past few months. Initially with the contract dispute at the East and Gulf Coast ports, then by Hurricane Sandy, which closed the Port of New York/New Jersey, and most recently by the eight-day strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In response to these challenges, many retailers have instituted costly contingency plans in order to avoid shipping disruptions and delays.

"Having a secure, long-term longshore labor contract in place is critical to ensure that the East and Gulf Coast ports continue to benefit from growing freight volumes," Shay said. "Without such certainty, retailers and others will surely reevaluate their supply chains and their short-term and long-term reliance on these ports."

He added that these negotiations "are too important not be resolved as soon as possible and without disruptions to the supply chain. We continue to believe that both parties can reach an agreement that will ensure the continued success and competitiveness of these ports for the foreseeable future."

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