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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch introduced the Preventing Labor Union Slowdowns (PLUS) Act to protect our national supply chain during upcoming maritime union negotiations. During past negotiations, maritime labor unions employed a “slowdown” tactic instead of striking, which causes substantial losses for local businesses importing and exporting goods. The PLUS Act would protect local businesses by amending federal law to define a labor slowdown as an unfair labor practice.

Additional cosponsors of the PLUS Act include U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

“American businesses have experienced severe hardships and costs caused by ongoing supply chain disruptions. For an Idaho exporter, every additional day their goods are stuck in port costs them thousands of dollars,” said Risch. “As labor negotiations at ports get underway, the PLUS Act will ensure businesses are not held hostage and left to foot the bill if a labor dispute occurs.”

“Idaho’s businesses have experienced unfair and significant losses due to port slowdowns in the past,” said Crapo. “Slowdown practices have the potential to negatively impact the competitiveness of Idaho commodities globally for years to come. This bill will enable Idaho’s business community to remain competitive when faced with labor disputes outside the state and out of our control.”

Scott said, “Families are experiencing the highest inflation rates our nation has seen in generations, and America’s stifled supply chain is only compounding the financial stress Floridians and all Americans are facing. Government should be making it as easy as possible to transport everyday goods that people need – especially as prices continue to skyrocket and shelves remain empty. This is why we must pass the PLUS Act so we can cut red tape, keep workers on the job and prevent supply chain disruptions. I urge my colleagues to support this good bill.”

“Idaho’s farmers and ranchers are facing the highest input costs they have seen in decades. Agriculture depends on efficient ports to feed the world and receive materials to effectively grow our food and fiber. Unfair practices by labor unions, including not implementing technologies to improve port efficiencies, are adding another layer of burden and cost to America’s farmers during these times,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle. “Such actions by unions will continue to have a negative impact, not only on this country’s agricultural producers but on everyday consumers who work to feed their families. The Idaho Farm Bureau applauds Sen. Risch for introducing the PLUS Act, and we encourage Congress’s serious consideration of the bill.” 

“In 2015, union slowdown practices at the Port of Portland essentially ended container on barge service on the Columbia Snake River System. The PLUS Act would help prevent the hardship Idaho agricultural and timber interests face due to the loss of barge service,” said Dave Doeringsfeld, General Manager of the Port of Lewiston, Idaho.

Background: Labor unions’ “slowdown” tactic hurts port managers because remuneration for full benefits and salaries is required, and replacing or firing employees cannot occur. The U.S. Potato Board estimates that during previous negotiations, west coast slowdowns caused massive financial damage to the food industry, including a $50 million loss to the Idaho potato industry. Other estimates include $70 million in wasted fruit in Washington, and $40 million per week loss in meat sales.

The PLUS Act would change the National Labor Relations Act to define a labor slowdown by maritime workers as an unfair labor practice. The bill also makes it an unfair labor practice for labor unions to block modernization efforts at ports and specifies that refusing to work automated vessels is an unfair labor practice.

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