WASHINGTON — The White House says the Port of Los Angeles, UPS, FedEx and Walmart will commit to 24/7 work hours to alleviate a supply-chain crunch that threatens to leave presents missing from under Christmas trees.
President Biden’s aides announced the commitments after mounting international shipping delays. As of this week, nearly 100 massive container ships idled off the Los Angeles coastline, unable to unload their goods.
“The port of Los Angeles is announcing 24/7 service,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters, joining the nearby Port of Long Beach, which moved to a 24/7 schedule about three weeks ago.
The Long Beach and Los Angeles ports complex “functions as one in terms of its economic impact,” the official said. The ports process about 40 percent of international shipping containers bound for the US.
“The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector so we need the private sector to step up to help solve these problems,” the official said.
“Three of the largest goods carriers in the country — Walmart, FedEx and UPS — will make commitments toward moving to 24/7 working during off peak hours.”
The official said that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union “has made a commitment that they will be able to staff 24/7” at the West Coast ports.
It’s unclear how dramatically the hours for workers at FedEx, UPS and Walmart would change, or which workers at those companies would be impacted.
The officials cautioned that the changes may not be enough.
“These are major commitments, but they’re most effective when every private company along the supply chain does the same thing. And now we’re looking to trucking and freight to expand hours as well to help with bottlenecks,” the official said.
The causes of the shipping problems are a matter of debate. Some experts point to an increase in container traffic and the fact that more people are shopping online. Biden critics point to generous COVID-19 stimulus programs and to a labor shortage, with employers seeing record levels of unfilled positions.