Capitol Alert

VIDEO: California lawmakers call on Obama to ‘step up’ in port dispute

Container ships wait to be unloaded at the Port of Oakland on Feb. 12, 2015, in Oakland.
Container ships wait to be unloaded at the Port of Oakland on Feb. 12, 2015, in Oakland. The Associated Press

California lawmakers want an end to the nine-month slowdown crippling West Coast ports, but they can’t agree on who’s to blame for the labor dispute causing it.

At a press conference Friday morning urging President Barack Obama, who is in the state this weekend, to intervene in the conflict between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and their employer, the Pacific Maritime Association, Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen tried to keep things neutral.

“We are all standing here together in a bipartisan way calling on both sides, the employers and the employees, to come together and resolve this labor dispute,” she said.

But the messaging soon fell apart. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who represents farmers that have been unable to ship their product, took the opportunity to lambast the longshoremen for holding out for raises on salaries she claimed already top six figures.

“People in my district would love to make that kind of money,” she said.

Then Sen. Isadore Hall, the only Democrat in attendance, ripped into the maritime association for their “reckless and irresponsible decision” to close West Coast ports this weekend, including the busy Port of Los Angeles in his district.

“Give ILW Local 13 workers a fair and responsible contract,” he said. “Enough is enough. ... Stop holding California’s ports hostage.”

The headache has extended to the agriculture, manufacturing and trucking industries, whose businesses have suffered during the slowdown. David Kuhnen, general manager of Sacramento recycler Recycling Industries, said he has 5,000 tons of paper waste in storage that he cannot ship to recycling plants in Asia.

“It’s a logistical constipation,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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