Joe Biden has warned companies that if they fail to fix supply chain bottlenecks before the holiday season, he will “call them out”.
In the face of dismal public opinion polls and a sluggish legislative agenda, the US president is keen to avert new political damage from congested ports, highways and railways that lead to higher prices and empty shelves.
“I know that you hear a lot about so-called supply chains and how hard it is to get a range of things from a toaster to sneakers to bicycles and bedroom furniture,” Biden confirmed in a brief address at the White House on Wednesday. “With the holidays approaching, you may be wondering whether the gifts you want to buy will arrive on time.”
Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles – which has recently suffered a record traffic jam – will be expanded to operate 24/7, modeled on the Port of Long Beach, also in California.
About 40% of shipping containers imported into the United States come through the two ports, which are among the busiest in the world but typically operate five days a week and close at night and on weekends. The change calls for the Port of Los Angeles to add more than 60 hours of operation per week, which is almost double its total earlier this year.
Biden, who set up a supply chain interruption task force in June, said the announcement had “potential to be a game changer,” but added, “I say potential because all of these goods don’t move by themselves .
“In order for the positive effect to be felt across the country and in all of you at home, we also need the large retailers who ordered the goods and the carriers who bring the goods from the ships to the factories and stores to reinforce. ”
As a positive sign, Biden said, three major goods transportation companies – Walmart, FedEx and UPS – are planning to step up their 24/7 operations to expedite shipping across the country. Target, Home Depot and Samsung are also increasing their work during off-peak hours.
The White House expects the six companies’ pledges will add 3,500 additional containers per week to be shipped weekly through the end of the year.
“This is not called the supply chain for nothing,” said Biden. “If federal support is needed, I will guide all appropriate measures. If the private sector does not take action now, we will call on them and urge them to act as our goal is not only to overcome this immediate bottleneck, but also to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic exposed. “
The supply crisis is being driven in part by the global coronavirus pandemic as sales of durable goods have skyrocketed amid labor shortages and the slowdown in transportation hubs.
Thousands of shipping containers await offshore cargo ships to be unloaded in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Similar residues exist in ports in New York and Savannah, Georgia. A shortage of warehouse workers and truck drivers to collect the goods is partly responsible.
A disturbed Christmas party with empty shelves and undelivered toys would certainly make negative headlines for Biden, who has already lost political momentum due to a Covid-19 increase due to the Delta variant and the chaotic withdrawal of the US armed forces from Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the president met with executives from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as corporations, unions, the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Association and the Pacific Maritime Association.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted that Biden couldn’t promise there would be no breaks from the holidays. “We are not the postal service, UPS or FedEx, we cannot guarantee that,” she told reporters.
“What we can do is use all the levels available to the federal government to reduce delays, to ensure we address bottlenecks in the system, including ports and their need to have longer hours … and we can keep pushing not only workers and unions, but also companies to take as many steps as possible to reduce these delays. “
Republicans took Biden’s remarks coolly and found that he did not respond to questions from reporters. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, tweeted: “As your paycheck shrinks due to skyrocketing inflation and supply chain shortages, it takes no questions or takes responsibility. He just walks away. “