From the AJC’s Savannah port strike could hit Georgia economy by Dan Chapman:

Georgia retailers, truckers and warehousemen are scrambling to avoid economic pain if longshoremen strike at the port of Savannah next week and shut down one of the state’s most critical economic engines.

Thousands of Georgia jobs and millions in revenue are at stake if the dock workers with the International Longshoremen’s Association walk away from their posts along the Savannah River at midnight December 29.

Negotiations between the union, which represents longshoremen at 15 East and Gulf coast ports, and an alliance of shipping companies and terminal operators broke down earlier this week. No new talks were planned as of Friday.

This isn’t just a Savannah problem, by the way:

Nearly 15,000 longshoremen at ports from Boston to Houston seek a six-year contract extension in talks with the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents shipping lines and ports. Management’s proposal to cap “container royalty” payments — a hefty portion of a dock worker’s annual pay and health care costs — remains the major issue.

If the longshoremen — container handlers, truck drivers, gate operators and others — walk out, container traffic would halt. Other cargo, including car imports and exports and the shipment of military goods, wouldn’t be effected.

Roughly 1,500 union jobs are in jeopardy at Savannah, the nation’s fourth busiest container port. The Authority’s 700 non-union employees, though, will remain on the payroll if the strike happens, Foltz said. Brunswick doesn’t handle containers and won’t likely be impacted.

SavannahRiverCargoAnd from the WSJ’s Eastern, Gulf Ports Brace for Strike:

“It looks pretty likely at this point,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah. He said Georgia’s ports would lose as much as 80% of their traffic if the strike goes ahead. “Everyone in the industry is very disappointed to be at the point where we are today,” he said.

Contract talks broke off abruptly Tuesday between the union and the alliance, which represents ocean carriers, marine terminal operators and port associations. As of Thursday, no new talks were planned, according to both sides.

Alliance CEO James Capo declined to comment, but in a statement released Dec. 18, he said the alliance was “disappointed with the breakdown of negotiations and the inflexible stance that the union’s leaders have maintained.”

ILA delegates have given President Harold Daggett authority to call a strike, but the union is still willing to negotiate, said spokesman Jim McNamara.

I don’t know enough about the issues here to pick sides, but I’ll try to read up a little.

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