Cargo-handling operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were normal on Thursday as the waterfront arbitrator began taking testimony in a formal hearing on the validity of a strike by office clerical workers.
It appears that the arbitrator may take two weeks or longer to analyze the evidence and issue his next ruling, so cargo operations at the nation's largest port complex should not be affected during that period.
The Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 called a strike at midnight June 30 when the office workers' three-year contract expired. The OCU immediately placed pickets at marine terminals and ILWU dockworkers and marine clerks refused to cross the pickets.
The OCU, though affiliated with the ILWU, has its own contract. The ILWU dockworkers and marine clerks have a contract with the Pacific Maritime Association.
The dockworkers and marine clerks could honor an OCU picket line if the arbitrator ruled that it is a bona fide picket. However, the arbitrator last week ruled that since the OCU presented its contract demands to employers three and one-half hours before walking off the job, the OCU was not bargaining in good faith.
Although the ILWU dockworkers and marine clerks have been abiding by the decision of the arbitrator, the ILWU noted that the arbitrator's ruling last week was made in the middle of the night and the union did not have enough time to prepare its case. The union therefore asked for a formal hearing that began Thursday morning.
PMA President Jim McKenna said formal hearings follow an established process in which each side presents its case and court reporters record the testimony. When the hearing is over, the arbitrator studies the transcripts and then decides either to confirm his original ruling or to reverse it.
McKenna said the formal process typically takes at least two weeks. "I anticipate no change in waterfront productivity during that time," McKenna said.
-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.