There is a growing call to action to move the governing law of the ports’ labor contract away from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and to the 1934 Railroad Labor Act (RLA). The RLA oversees the labor contracts for both the railroads and airlines with the purpose of avoiding disruptions to commerce and transportation.
Unlike the NLRA, contracts under the jurisdiction of the RLA do not expire but rather remain in effect until a new agreement is reached. Additionally, neither side can engage in slowdowns, lockouts or strikes. Furthermore, the RLA created the National Mediation Board (NMB) to facilitate the negotiation and reconciliation process. Finally, if the two sides do not reach an agreement with the help of mediation, they must commit to a 30-day cooling off period.
Why should ocean-going commerce be treated any differently than airborne or rail commerce? Frankly, it should not be, but it will take an actual “Act of Congress” to change the current law and end the cycle of cargo disruptions during contract negotiations. If you want a long-term solution, call your US Representative and US Senators.