LONG BEACH — Negotiations between International Longshore and Warehouse Union office clerical workers and employers resumed late Thursday, but the strike that has shut down cargo-handling operations at 10 of the 14 container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach continued Friday.
The strike at the APM Terminal in Los Angeles has entered its fourth day, and the strike that has idled the other nine terminals is in its third day.
The Harbor Employers Association met with the Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 for about three hours Thursday evening, with both sides agreeing upon a framework for negotiations on Friday, said Stephen Berry, the attorney representing employers.
The OCU was meeting internally Friday morning and was expected to resume negotiations with employers later in the day, Berry said.
Meanwhile, vessels were backing up in the nation’s largest port complex as the busy weekend approached. There were 45 vessels in port Friday, 22 of those container ships, according to the Marine Exchange of Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor.
Dozens of vessels are scheduled to arrive in the coming days, including seven container ships on Friday, five on Saturday, six on Sunday and nine on Monday, the exchange reported.
Cargo interests and political leaders have called on the parties to negotiate their differences and reopen the harbor to commerce. The National Retail Federation on Thursday requested intervention by President Obama.
A request by cargo interests or other affected parties that are not involved in the negotiations could be a precursor to a call for a Taft-Hartley injunction by the administration. If the strike drags on, the administration could seek an injunction ordering an 80-day cooling-off period, which would send the longshoremen back to work on the docks while negotiations continue.
That is what happened in 2002 when an employer lockout of dockworkers shut down West Coast ports for 10 days, resulting in an estimated loss of $1 billion a day to the national economy.
The OCU members, by posting pickets at the terminals where they are employed, are in effect stopping cargo-handling because the ILWU dockworkers are refusing to cross the picket lines. Rulings this week by the area arbitrator and the Coast Labor Relations Committee determined the OCU pickets are bona fide, so dockworkers do not violate their contract by honoring the pickets.
In fact, a peculiar arrangement has developed. OCU workers and ILWU longshoremen whose jobs are located at the terminals are not working, and are therefore not getting paid. However, some OCU workers are employed at steamship line offices off site. They are working, and they are getting paid.
Furthermore, four of the terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor do not have contracts with the OCU, and cargo-handling is proceeding normally at those facilities. However, with 70 percent of the terminals closed, cargo and vessels are backing up quickly.
The OCU, which has been working without a contract since June 2010, charges that employers are using computer technology to outsource OCU jobs to other states and other countries. Employers say no OCU jobs have been outsourced. Rather, employers charge that the OCU refuses to budge from its insistence that when employees are absent or they retire, those positions must be filled, even if there is no work to be performed.