WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged a swift end to the labor dispute that has throttled port activity on the West Coast.
More than a dozen lawmakers from West Coast states like Washington and California but also as far east as Iowa and Ohio said the ongoing labor dispute, which has partially shut down ports, had a devastating impact on their communities, causing staff layoffs and lost export sales.
"This has gone on far too long," said Washington Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican, adding lawmakers would introduce a resolution to Congress calling for unions and company representatives to reach a deal.
Reichert said one employer in his district had to lay off more than 200 staff and was losing $1 million a week.
Another congressman, Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader, said his state's cherry growers had lost more than $250,000 of export sales in January alone because of port disruptions.
President Barack Obama should be ready to invoke special powers under labor relations laws to get the ports running again if the parties could not, he said.
"If they refuse to do so, I urge the President of the United States to use his powers ... to end this dispute once and for all," Schrader said.
More than 80 members of Congress signed a Jan. 30 letter urging the parties in a labor dispute between dockworkers and shipping lines and terminal operators to resolve disagreements quickly.
Officials for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, representing 20,000 dockworkers who have been without a contract since July, say they are very close to a deal with the companies' bargaining agent, the Pacific Maritime Association.
Ohio Republican Bob Gibbs said a medical equipment company in his region, which imports protective clothing for healthcare workers, said the disruptions had led to "rationing" of clothing, putting the healthcare industry at risk.
Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Bernard Orr