Michael “Mickey” Kantor, co-chair of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy advisory board, penned an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, “End the storm at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.”
In his February 16 op-ed, Kantor described the “frustrating and costly slowdown of operations at West Coast port facilities,” caused by a deterioration in contract negotiations between management and labor.
“Now the latest deterioration in the contract talks — which resulted in an almost complete shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports over the holiday weekend, with 33 ships lined up waiting to be unloaded Monday — has the potential to turn the slowdown into a full-scale crisis,” Kantor wrote. “If the West Coast’s 29 ports are not returned to full operation soon, it will create a shock wave that reverberates across the economy, derailing a promising economic recovery that is creating jobs and restoring a sense of economic security for the nation.”
The effects of the slowdown and shutdown of the ports have reverberated across the country, Kantor said, with high-value goods manufacturers and agricultural producers particularly feeling the hit. And if the situation devolves into a strike or lockout, Los Angeles and the rest of the country will experience lasting consequences.
“Some of these losses, while painful enough in the short term, could become permanent if foreign customers ultimately find the products they need elsewhere,” he wrote. “Our competitors around the globe, be they in manufacturing or agriculture, are all too willing to poach future business from the U.S. Such a hit to the economy is almost impossible to measure, but it will continue to have real-world consequences going forward.”
Kantor stressed that this crisis is preventable, and called on President Obama to step in and “use his bully pulpit — and all other means at his disposal — to ensure that our nation remains open for business.”
Kantor is a partner at Mayer Brown in the Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles offices. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, he served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from 1996-1997 and as United States Trade Representative from 1993-1996. While in office, he led the negotiations that created the World Trade Organization, North American Fair Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and was involved in the initial steps towards the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He is a consultant with the Retail Industry Leaders Association.