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Federal mediator to help West Coast ports contract dispute

A shipping container is loaded onto a truck at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California.
Tim Rue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A shipping container is loaded onto a truck at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California.

A federal mediator is getting involved in stalled contract talks between West Coast dockworkers and their employers.

Political and financial pressure has been building as each side blamed the other for the slow movement of billions of dollars of cargo across the docks at 29 seaports that are a vital trade link with Asia.

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The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced its involvement late Monday. While the development does not mean an immediate return to normalcy at the sea ports, a mediator has proven pivotal in past contract disputes.

The ports from San Diego to Seattle handled $892 billion in imports and exports during 2013, according to U.S. trade data. Cargo volume has been heavy in the past year as the economy has improved—and due to a range of problems, that cargo is having a hard time getting where it needs to go efficiently.

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Members of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union have worked without a contract since July 1.

The maritime association accuses workers of slowing down deliberately, while the union says bad management is the main cause of problems.