Workers at the port of Baltimore belonging to the International Longshoremen's Association crippled the port’s operation as they launched a strike over a contract row with the Steamship Trade Association. According to the Maryland Port Administration's most recent annual report, the port of Baltimore is the 12th largest in the United States in terms of container volume.
It is also one of the top 10 employment centers in Maryland. The port of Baltimore handled 538,000 vehicle transfers in 2011 and 652,000 in 2012. Chrysler-Fiat spokeswoman Katie Hepler said that they are closely monitoring the situation in Baltimore, hoping for a speedy resolution. "We're aware of it, and we're looking into it," said Nick Beard, a spokesman for Mazda Motor Corp., which inked a contract this year with the port of Baltimore to ship 65,000 vehicles annually.
The row refers to a deal inked by the ILA this year – which covers ports from Maine to Texas – that has to be ratified by all local labor unions, according to Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration. One of four Baltimore chapters, Local No. 333, rejected the deal and has announced a work stoppage, said Scher, noting that the Port Administration has nothing to do with the negotiations.
Scher said that if the impasse only last a day or two, there might not a huge economic impact. He, however, said that if the impasse continues a week or two weeks, there could be some significant economic impacts. The ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance agreed to a new labor deal in February 2013 following a row over payouts nearly led to a union strike in December. Federal mediators stepped in and were able to secure an extension.