Shipping lines and terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach were breathing a sigh of relief Wednesday morning after office workers and their employers agreed to resume contract negotiations.
As of Tuesday, it appeared likely that the Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 was preparing to strike.
Carriers and terminal operators that day held internal meetings during which they were told that if the International Longshore and Warehouse Union affiliate struck the APM terminal in Los Angeles, employers would lock out the other 13 shipping lines and terminals where the OCU works.
The Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 represents office workers in the nation’s largest port complex. The office workers have been without a contract since June 2010. In a departure from normal waterfront bargaining practices, where there is one coast-wide contract, the OCU has 14 different contracts, one with each employer.
The OCU and the Harbor Employers’ Association has have been negotiating on and off, but mostly off, for more than two years. However, the two sides got back together in earnest two weeks ago and have been negotiating almost daily since then. The current negotiations involve the OCU unit that works at the APM terminal. http://www.joc.com/labor/ilwu-clerical-workers-employers-return-bargaining-table
The chatter early this week implied that the OCU gave employers its last, best and final offer, and employers were said to be preparing to reject it outright. The expectation then was that the OCU would post pickets at the APM terminal, and ILWU dockworkers would honor what they would call a “bona fide” picket.
The OCU’s main leverage comes from its ability to picket a marine terminal or terminals, with ILWU dockworkers honoring the picket and shutting down cargo-handling operations. A coast arbitrator ruled in April that dockworkers can honor an OCU picket line without violating the contract between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers in negotiating and administering the coast-wide contract for dockworkers. http://www.joc.com/ilwu-dockworkers-can-honor-clerks-pickets-arbitrator-rules
The coast arbitrator handles disputes involving the ILWU dockworkers and the PMA. The PMA is not involved in the OCU negotiations.
Employers involved in the OCU negotiations have indicated in recent weeks that if the office workers picket one facility, in this case the APM terminal, employers would lock the OCU out of all of the terminals and shipping line offices. This strategy is aimed at avoiding a divide-and-conquer offensive on the part of the OCU.
Both parties agreed to return to the bargaining table on Wednesday. Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the employers’ group, confirmed that negotiations were scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.