U.S. labor secretary gives 2 sides in port talks a deadline

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation's top labor official is ratcheting up pressure on the two sides haggling over a new contract for dockworkers at West Coast seaports, saying if they don't reach an agreement by Friday afternoon, they'll have to leave California and negotiate in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez gave that deadline Thursday to leaders of the dockworkers' union and a maritime association representing their employers.

The talks in San Francisco began nine months ago, but broke down in recent weeks. As negotiations drag on, billions of dollars of cargo sits on ships anchored outside the 29 ports.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf applauded the move, which she learned about in an evening call with Perez.

Neither the union nor the maritime association had comment; both are operating under a media blackout.