Friday, November 30, 2012

ILWU Strike Cripples LA, Long Beach Ports

After failing to reach a contract after more than two years of negotiations with a management group representing international carriers and terminal operators, members of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union clerical division have gone on strike.

ILWU Local 63, a clerical unit with about 800 members, began the labor action at noon Nov. 27 at Pier 400 in the Port of Los Angeles and later spread to the other seven port terminals over the course of the following 24 hours.

As of Nov. 29, three of the six container terminals at the adjoining Port of Long Beach – Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F, International Transportation Service at Pier G and Total Terminals International at Pier T – were also not operational due to union picketing.

The union members have been working without a contract since their three-year pact with management expired June 30, 2010. Negotiations had been ongoing until this week. Union leadership contends that management wants to outsource work to other countries.

"It’s not about wages and benefits, it’s about outsourcing and the future of good jobs in America and our Harbor communities," Local 63 President John Fageaux said. "We just reached the point where somebody had to stand up and draw the line against outsourcing, because these companies will eventually take all the good jobs."

The ILWU specifically opposes technology that would allow customers to directly access booking information, saying it could lead to the outsourcing of jobs. However, the employers’ group, which is comprised of 14 shippers and terminal operators in and around the port complex, says implementation of new technology is needed to improve efficiency.

Fageaux said that the Los Angeles Harbor community has lost over 50 permanent positions over the past years and that maritime companies have announced plans to eliminate another 76 in the future.
"The jobs here come with excellent wages and benefits – but they’ll eventually disappear if companies keep outsourcing them to India and Taiwan," Trinie Thompson, a Port of Los Angeles logistics clerk said.

Although Local 63 only has 800 members, the strike is being honored by its much larger sister, Local 13, which has about 7,000 registered members and represents almost 20,000 part- and full-time longshore workers who discharge cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.