UPDATE 2-U.S. West Coast ports reopen as labor secretary arrives for talks

Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:21pm EST
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(Adds analysis of options available to Obama under U.S. labor law)

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S. West Coast ports, closed to incoming cargo vessels during the three-day holiday weekend, reopened in full on Tuesday as Labor Secretary Tom Perez arrived in San Francisco seeking to broker a settlement ending months of shipping disruptions.

Perez was sent to meet with the two sides in the conflict at the behest of President Barack Obama, who has come under mounting pressure to intervene in a labor dispute that has cascaded through the U.S. commercial supply chain and beyond.

It was not immediately clear whether Perez would meet with the two sides together or separately. But one source familiar with the situation said Perez would likely huddle in a room with the principal negotiators from both sides, along with the federal mediator who joined the talks last month.

Administration officials offered few details.

"Secretary Perez has meetings with both parties today in San Francisco," spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in an email. "He'll urge the parties to resolve their dispute quickly at the bargaining table. We don't have any updates at this time."

Labor law experts said Obama has few other options at his disposal to spur a settlement in the contract negotiations, which have dragged on for nine months amid worsening cargo backups and curtailed port operations that the two sides have blamed on each other.

And it was not clear what Perez could bring to the table besides the symbolic weight of Cabinet-level involvement.   Continued...