Friday, December 7, 2012

LA/Long Beach Labor Strike Ends

The Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex is fully operational again after an eight-day strike that shut down 10 of the complex’s 14 terminals.

Late in the evening on Dec. 4, International Longshore Union Local 63, which represents about several hundred clerical workers, and the LA/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 shippers and terminal operators, managed to reach an agreement on a new contract that runs through 2016. Neither side would initially reveal details of the contract.

The strike, which began at noon on Nov. 27, was launched after more than two years of negotiations. The clerical staffers had been working without a contract since their previous three-year pact with management expired June 30, 2010.

“The resulting agreements are good for workers, good for employers and – most of all – important in enabling our Southern California ports to get back to work,” the Employers Association said in a prepared statement regarding the deal. “Our nation’s economy depends on the ports, and these agreements pave the way for continued growth in the months and years ahead.”

The main sticking point in negotiations wasn’t believed to be wages, but outsourcing. The union had contended that management wanted to implement new technology that would lead to fewer human workers being necessary.

The employers’ group had maintained that implementation of new technology is needed to improve efficiency.

But the ILWU has specifically opposed technology that would allow customers to directly access booking information, saying it could lead to the outsourcing of jobs. The union had also sought to have language included in the contract specifying that workers would not be laid off.

In a statement released after the deal was reached, the union said it has won “new protections that will help prevent jobs from being outsourced to Texas, Taiwan and beyond.”

“Our campaign was always focused on securing good jobs and stopping the outsourcing that threatened working families in our harbor communities,” ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe, who helped coordinate the strike and assist the local in negotiations, said.

During the strike, 20 ships were rerouted to other West Coast ports, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, while another 13 vessels were idle in and around the port complex’s waters.
Although Local 63 only represents about 800 dockworkers at the port complex, its strike was effective because it was 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 adjoining ports.