Business dispute at Baltimore port has world-wide implications

Contracts and negotiations are a part of almost any business venture in Maryland. Sometimes, these documents are addressed amongst individuals and small groups. In other instances, they are a part of union activities. Over the past few months, a business dispute between Local 333 and the port of Baltimore due to labor issues has resulted in business disruptions and financial losses for numerous businesses.

At the heart of this business dispute is the union's labor contract. Last October, the union called for a strike at the port. Although there was a no strike provision in the contract, the union chose to strike, and other unions operating at the port also chose to honor the strike and not cross the picket line. As a result, cargo was not unloaded, and ships left port with their cargo still intact. This caused a wave of repercussions across the United States and around the globe.

During the arbitration process, the union was ordered to pay $3.9 million in damages that this strike caused. These damages are now a factor in deciding whether to accept the latest local contract. In hopes of having the damages reduced, union officials are purportedly using the contract as a tool to attempt to reduce the dollar amount of the damages.

Business disputes can be costly to both companies and employees. Even Maryland business not actively engaged in a business dispute can be affected by them through their suppliers and other vendors. When a business dispute appears to be imminent, guidance in navigating these tenuous waters can be invaluable.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Global effects of Baltimore port strike now at center of local contract negotiations", Kevin Rector, April 12, 2014

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