LONG BEACH, Calif. — Office clerical workers on Tuesday posted pickets at the large APM terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, effectively shutting down the facility because International Longshore and Warehouse Union dockworkers refused to cross the picket line.
The ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which administers the coastwide waterfront contract for shipping lines and terminal operators, sent the matter shortly after noon Tuesday to a labor relations committee hearing to determine if the OCU posted a bona fide picket.
PMA President Jim McKenna said that whoever loses in the hearing would most likely send the matter to the local arbitrator under the PMA-ILWU waterfront contract. That means the dayshift at the APM terminal on Tuesday was over.
UPDATE: After hearing arguments late into Tuesday night, the area arbitrator ruled the OCU picket line was not bona fide, according to the PMA. The arbitrator ruled the ILWU dockworkers to report to their jobs for Wednesday's day shift.
APM, a sister company of Maersk Line, operates the largest container terminal in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Although the Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 has individual contracts with 14 employers in the harbor area, the contract negotiations sparking the job action have only been held of late with APM.
McKenna said the OCU wasn’t picketing any other employers on Tuesday, so all other terminals in the harbor were operating normally.
OCU workers process shipping documentation and perform other clerical functions at the offices of shipping lines and terminal operators. Most of the OCU membership works in Southern California. The union, though affiliated with the ILWU, has a separate contract.
The OCU has significant influence in the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor because the coast arbitrator involved in dockworker issues in April ruled that longshoremen can refuse to cross an OCU picket without violating the dockworkers’ contract with the PMA.
The OCU has been working without a contract since 2010. Negotiations have been held sporadically the past two years, although contract talks have been held rather consistently the past three months.
Stephen Berry, the attorney representing OCU employers, said the union continues to press demands that are “unfair and unreasonable,” by perpetuating practices he described as “classic featherbedding.”
As an example, Berry said OCU workers on average have a 29 percent absentee rate under their contracts. “They work eight-and-one-half months out of the year,” he said.
Employers aren’t attempting to take away the days allowed for absenteeism, Berry said. Rather, employers refuse to perpetuate the practice of having to replace absent workers with others from the hiring hall even when the substitutes aren’t needed, he said.
OCU President John Fageaux said the union’s main concern is that employers are using computer technology to outsource OCU work to other states and other countries. “I’ve said all along, this is not about money. We have a great package,” he said.
OCU workers earn on average close to $90,000 a year. The employers have offered pay raises under a new contract.
Berry said employers have offered to give the OCU a paper trail as to every correspondence that takes place involving non-OCU workers, and the offer includes a monetary penalty to be paid by employers that outsource work.
The OCU contends outsourced work is gone forever from the waterfront, and therefore the union wants to maintain jurisdiction over all traditional OCU work.
If the APM facility remains shut down for any length of time, it’s possible the other 13 employers would lock out the OCU in support of the Maersk facility, Berry said.