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U.S. Labor Secretary Says New Port Labor Laws Are Unnecessary

Months of increasingly acrimonious contract talks led to recent shipping delays.

The Obama administration's top labor official this week said he opposed legislation that would enable states to intervene in union disputes at the nation's ports.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez visited the Port of Los Angeles on Monday to laud the efforts of port officials and dockworkers in clearing a massive cargo backlog.

Months of increasingly acrimonious contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the port managers and operators of the Pacific Maritime Association led to shipping delays at Los Angeles and 28 other West Coast ports late last year and into early 2015.

Ultimately, Perez joined the contract talks before both sides reached a tentative agreement in February.

Retail groups called for reforms in the port collective bargaining process due to the billions in economic activity at stake, and Republican senators this month introduced legislation that would give governors increased power to petition courts regarding port disputes.

This week, however, Perez downplayed the need for changes in labor relations at ports.

β€œThe collective bargaining process worked,” Perez said.

Perez instead called for infrastructure upgrades to maximize the existing logistical advantages at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The cargo slowdown helped contribute to rising shipments to ports on the East Coast, and the widening of the Panama Canal in 2016 could make those harbors increasingly attractive.

"Location, location, location in this competitive global economy is not enough," Perez said.

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