Friday, August 3, 2012

US Senators Urge End to LA/Long Beach Labor Dispute

California’s two US senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein this week urged an end to a contract dispute that’s been ongoing for two years between labor and employer groups at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The dispute involves a local clerical unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association. The two sides have been far apart in contract talks, which have been ongoing since before the contract between the employers’ group and the Office Clerical Unit expired in 2010.

“With the fragile state of California's economy and growing competition from other US ports, it is essential that both parties reach an agreement that will protect these important jobs and allow the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to continue operating without disruption,” the senators wrote in a letter that was delivered July 31 to the union and the employers association.

The union opposes technology that would allow customers to directly access booking information, saying it could lead to the outsourcing of jobs; the employers’ group, on the other hand, says implementation of new technology is needed to improve efficiency.

The weighing in by the senators is a sign that the prolonged dispute could come to a head soon via a strike or work slowdown. Although the clerical unit only has about 1,000 members, any picket lines established would likely be honored by the parent ILWU organization, which could cripple the ports.