Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, has sponsored a bill to punish unions for maritime labor slowdowns by re-defining slowdowns as unfair labor practices. Risch's bill would amend the National labor Relations Act and does not place any new restrictions on maritime employers. Pool photo by Drew Angerer/UPI | License Photo
June 22 (UPI) -- Idaho Republican U.S. Senator Jim Risch is targeting labor unions with a bill that would amend core federal labor laws to re-define a labor slowdown by maritime workers as an unfair labor practice.
It weakens worker power while placing no further restrictions on maritime employers.
In a statement Risch blamed workers for maritime productivity slowdowns while making no mention of any employer role in disputes that slow down maritime work.
"Labor union slowdowns have caused Idaho businesses to lose tens of millions of dollars," Risch said in a statement. "With labor negotiations underway on the West Coast, unions have already instituted slowdowns that are destined to have massive financial repercussions. I implore my colleagues to support and pass the Preventing Labor Union Slowdowns Act to protect our national supply chain and stop another slowdown before it costs America hundreds of millions in losses."
The ILWU declined to comment on the bill and said they have not released a statement on it.
If passed, the bill would penalize maritime workers who "deliberately reduce productivity" amid negotiations to gain leverage over their employer. It would also bar workers from "blocking modernization efforts at ports."
The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Labor Management Relations Act to weaken the existing power of unions. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
It would penalize workers for the newly created unfair labor practice of slowing production by hitting unions with fines equal to twice the amount of damages sustained plus legal fees.
According to an AFL-CIO legislative scorecard, Risch is one of the most anti-union members of Congress when it comes to his votes on legislation supported by organized labor.
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced June 15 that a tentative labor contract agreement has been reached for 29 West Coast ports. It must still be ratified by union workers before becoming final.
Two weeks before that deal was reached, waterfront workers from Los Angeles to Seattle delayed cargo deliveries by refusing to show up for work during contentious labor negotiations.