Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SEIU Union Pickets Port of Oakland

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021, which represents port employees primarily in the janitorial, custodial and maintenance fields, began picketing the Port of Oakland Nov. 19, unhappy over the status of contract negotiations.

“We’ve been prepared for this type of action and still hope to resolve the potential conflict,” Port of Oakland Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint said. “Union picketing at our container facility could cause economic hardship to the port and to union employees not just on the day of the action, but in terms of future long-term business agreements.”

The pickets caused disruptions at port terminals and negative impacts on truckers and longshore workers trying to move cargo according to the port, but did not hinder airport operations.

Because Local 1021 membership rejected a tentative agreement reached between the port and union leadership in March, a mutually-agreed-upon arbitrator is scheduled to begin a non-binding fact-finding phase of impasse proceedings between the port and SEIU later this month. Arbitration meetings are currently scheduled for Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 3.

The negotiated contract that the union’s rank-and-file rejected would have required workers to begin making a five percent contribution to their own retirement; currently the port pays the eight percent employee share as well as the employer share of retirement costs.

“We are asking all of our unions to share in the process of getting the port on a path to long-term sustainability and global competitiveness,” Ale Flint said.

Union spokeswoman Anna Bakalis said the strike would continue indefinitely.