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October 9, 2002

Pacific ports ordered back to work
Three hours after the Justice Department filed documents in a San Francisco federal court yesterday, Judge William Alsup agreed to impose a temporary restraining order, ending at least for now the 29-port shutdown that has backed up hundreds of ships and cost the economy as much as $2 billion a day.

The judge said the government had met the requirements for an injunction and ordered a fuller hearing for Oct. 16 on whether he would impose the 80-day cooling-off period as mandated by Taft-Hartley.

So, what happens now? Here's what White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said at today's press briefing

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Let me walk you through a little bit procedurally on how this works. As you know, a temporary restraining order was agreed to by a judge last night. The next step is an injunction. If an injunction is issued, the parties then, under the law, would be required to continue to work with the federal mediator that is on the scene toward a solution for the labor dispute. After 60 days, if no agreement's been reached, the board would be required to issue a second report to the President that includes the current positions of the parties involved, efforts which have been made for the settlement, a statement by each party of its position, and a statement of the employers' last offer of settlement.

At that point, between 61 and 75 days, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct a secret ballot of the ILWU employees on the PMA's last offer of settlement. The NLRB would be required to certify the results to the Attorney General no less than five days thereafter. At the end of the 80-day period of legal injunction, the legal injunction is discharged. If the dispute is unresolved and if the employees have rejected the last final offer in a secret ballot, the parties become free to engage in work stoppages again.

The bottom line is, the federal government has taken the most meaningful and authoritative action it can, and that was the action the President took last night to protect America's economy and to protect people's jobs. At this point, it is really up to management and labor to enter into an agreement. The federal government will be there as a helping hand, but it is up to the parties to resolve a dispute.

And nobody should be under any illusions at the end of 80 days that the federal government can step in and solve the problem. This is a worker-management dispute at a very fundamental level. We are going to be helpful. Labor will be on the scene. The mediator is available. But it remains important for the strength of the economy, for labor and management to use this cooling-off period that the President has provided to get an agreement.

Q -- will there be a monitoring by the administration of the situation? Does this administration have a hands-off --

MR. FLEISCHER: We will, of course, continue to monitor and to be helpful. But fundamentally, in our free market country, and in a country that respects the rights of workers, workers and management have to resolve the dispute. The federal government will continue to be helpful, but it remains the parties' responsibilities to enter into an agreement. The government cannot do it for them.

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