ILA, AFL-CIO joins Walmart and Rep. Brady to support petition seeking temporary suspension of Chilean table grape restrictiions
The 65,000-member International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO – the largest North American union of maritime workers – has joined a broad coalition of Delaware River port community interests in a petition asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to suspend for humanitarian reasons for up to 20 days in April the restrictions on all table grapes imported from Chile.
“The International Longshoremen’s Association is 100 percent behind the petition,” said union President Richard P. Hughes, Jr. “We’ve forged close relationships with our business partners in Chile, and they deserve our full support in their time of need. We’re here to help.”
In addition, retail giant Wal-Mart has sent a letter in support of the petition. So far, the Walmart Foundation has donated $1 million for emergency relief efforts in Chile. As noted in its letter supporting the petition, “Chile is the main source of grapes for the U.S. from December through April. The current marketing order requires that grapes meet a certain standard as a condition for entry, and would make it difficult for grapes to enter the U.S. market after April 10. Given the devastation and halt in the exports, we support the request of the government authorities and trade associations of the Delaware River region that the table grape marketing order be suspended for 10 days from April 10 to 20 of this year.”
The request is being made on humanitarian grounds, as Chile was hit Feb. 27 with a powerful earthquake registering 8.8 on the Richter scale. More than 200 aftershocks have since been recorded, including some over 6.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake caused widespread and catastrophic damage to the Chilean port facilities and transportation infrastructure needed to transport the grape harvest.
Meantime, in a letter to Secretary Vilsack, Tres Bailey, Walmart’s director of federal government relations, wrote: “We appreciate your consideration of this petition that will help Chile in a time of need and will help ensure American consumers have a steady supply of table grapes through April and into May.”
Longshoremen, Walmart, Rep. Brady support petition
Rep. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, also supports the petition.
“Philadelphia’s port system is our most important economic engine. Our highly skilled workforce, our strategic regional location, our produce distribution network and our world class highway, airport and rain infrastructure make us the best port for importers and exporters to use,” Brady said. “Throughout my service in the Congress, I have been proud to lead efforts to increase produce imports into our ports. With that in mind, I’m calling on Secretary Vilsack to suspend Table Grape Import Regulation No. 4 and protect family sustaining jobs in the Philadelphia region’s ports.”
Aside from the humanitarian grounds, the request will benefit United States consumers via lower prices and a larger supply and will benefit the local port community – nearly 65 percent of all fruit shipments from Chile enter the United States through the three Delaware River ports.
U.S. grape consumption has doubled within the past 20 years, reaching per capita consumption of eight pounds annually.
Given the disruption in the Chilean harvest and shipments, Chile will lose the ability to distribute its crop – the voyage from Chile to the United States takes 10 to 14 days – without the temporary suspension of the import regulations. The Chilean industry estimates that 10 to 20 days of its harvest season will be delayed or lost.
Those previously signing the petition included the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce; the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; the Delaware River Stevedores, Inc.; Chispa Group; the Delaware River Marine Trade Assoc.; the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River & Bay; the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority; the Diamond State Port Corp.; Dole Fresh