The U.S. labor secretary visited the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports Tuesday to survey the backlog of shipping containers, meeting with local politicians and union officials in what appears to be a push for President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

“I saw crane operators taking the goods off the ship, I saw truck drivers driving the goods out of the yard, and I’ve seen a lot of work happening here,” Secretary Marty Walsh said in a news conference Tuesday. “This is a very complicated operation that’s behind me here, and I think we’re seeing a lot of good progress happening.”


Ports are reporting a 37% decrease in cargo containers lingering at docks after the cities threatened to start initiating fines of $100 a day. Many containers had been languishing on the docks for weeks, contributing to a congestion problem that prohibited speedy removal, port officials said.

But the crisis is still far from over as 77 ships are anchored off the coast. Although the total is down from the last few months, when it topped 100, another 35 vessels will be arriving in the next few days, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors the traffic.

“I don’t think there’s ever a normal in the supply chain, I think it’s always been ups and downs, “Walsh told NBC News.

Walsh’s visit came on the heels of a video conference between Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Los Angeles Port Executive Director Gene Seroka on Nov. 16. The pair talked about infrastructure.

“It’s nothing but public relations so all the local politicians can bask in the glow of the big boys and make it seem like they are doing something about the problem,” veteran union labor consultant Jim Tessier said about the Walsh event. “The whole point of this is to make the administration look good, there is no other explanation for it.”

Tessier told the Washington Examiner that Walsh has “nothing to do with the supply chain matrix” and there is no need to discuss next year’s longshoreman contract because the workers “already have everything they need.” The contract covering approximately 22,000 West Coast dockworkers expires in July. The last round of talks in 2014 and 2015 was contentious and led to temporary port shutdowns.

Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragan was part of the tour and touted Biden’s plan.


"Now that Congress passed the Biden-Harris administration's Infrastructure and Jobs Act and it's been signed into law, we're going to see historic investments to modernize our ports, invest in rail, and restore our ability to move goods and supplies as quickly as possible,” she told Spectrum News Tuesday.