- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) The White House told West Coast port workers and their bosses yesterday that their labor dispute is damaging the economy and that they should settle their differences.
President Bush did not mention the dispute in two speeches in Manchester and gave no indication otherwise that he planned to intervene directly as the lockout entered its second week.
But press secretary Ari Fleischer said, "The president's message to labor and management is simple: You are hurting the economy."
Mr. Bush spoke with White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. about the lockout, Mr. Fleischer said, and a federal mediator continued talks with both sides, seeking to end a dispute sapping billions of dollars from the economy.
"You are hurting your fellow workers in unions in other parts of the country whose jobs depend on the products you ship," Mr. Fleischer said, giving the president's message to the dockworkers.
"His message to management is the same: People in the rest of the country who depend on products that your ports provide are starting to suffer setbacks," Mr. Fleischer said. "The president's message is: Go back to work and resolve the problems."
Peter Hurtgen, the federal mediator responsible for ending the bitter contract dispute, met with both sides yesterday in San Francisco, said Kathleen Harrington, a Labor Department spokeswoman. Mr. Hurtgen remains hopeful, but "the issues remain very difficult," she said.
The lockout, which began last Sunday at the nation's 29 West Coast ports, in Washington, Oregon and California, is costing the U.S. economy about $2 billion a day, said Robert Parry, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Ports in Alaska and Hawaii were reopened for cargo shipments yesterday. Union longshoremen and port employers reached the agreement to reopen Alaska and Hawaii after a marathon round of talks Friday, but a wider deal is expected to take much longer.
As hundreds of ships laden with Asian cargo waited at anchor along the coast and trains flush with goods for export stacked up near ports, the shutdown was having a domino effect throughout the economy.
Nissan North America Inc. plans to eliminate the Saturday shift at its Smyrna, Tenn., plant, which manufactures almost 500,000 Altimas, Xterra sport utility vehicles and Frontier pickups each year and will shut down soon if the lockout doesn't end.
Union Pacific, the nation's largest railroad, parked 55 trains across the Western United States, unable to move cargo. Grain shipments bound for export stacked up in warehouses, and growers of perishable goods such as apples and citrus worried that their harvests would not reach lucrative Asian markets.
As the Bush administration issued the evenhanded appeal, two senior administration officials said the president is considering appointing a board of inquiry into the lockout to determine the economic effects of the shutdown and whether both sides are negotiating in good faith.
That inquiry would be a first step toward ordering workers back to their jobs for 80 days under the Taft-Hartley Act.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the president has not decided whether to deepen his involvement in the port stoppage. He is reluctant to intervene, the officials said, because the 1947 law has a poor success record and is politically sensitive.
The board of inquiry would determine within a matter of days whether the lockout is hurting the national economy and whether the parties are negotiating in good faith.
Mr. Bush then would have to make his case in federal court by requesting a ruling for the 80-day cooling-off period because the dispute is "imperiling the national health or safety."
Mr. Fleischer would not say whether Mr. Bush planned to intervene.


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