Time to talk

December 12, 1990

The idea is not new, and it's simple common sense -- sit down and talk through differences before they become major problems. But somehow the state officials, shipping company managers and labor leaders who collectively run the Port of Baltimore have never been able to establish a reliable and inclusive way to keep communication lines open.

Now that the port is trying to recover from yet another black eye -- the recent strike by the port's clerks and checkers, along with a Wall Street Journal article calling attention to the port's troubled labor-management relations -- it's time to take the idea of a such a forum seriously. Horace W. Davis, head of one of the port's ILA locals, has sent out a letter proposing a summit of port leaders as a way of establishing a mechanism for the regular airing of differences. Technically the burden for resolving differences falls on labor and management, but any summit on the port should include state officials, and probably other parties as well -- such as the trucking industry and railroads, which also have a stake in the port's success.

The time to talk is before issues mushroom into confrontations. A port summit that would produce a mechanism for a regular exchange of views would be a welcome and long-overdue way of beginning to erase the stain on the port's public image.

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