LONG BEACH — There appeared to be some movement in talks between striking office clerical workers and waterfront employers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where 10 of the 14 container terminals remained closed over the weekend.
The Harbor Employers Association Saturday night made some changes to its contract offer. As of late Sunday, the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 was studying the revised proposal but had not yet responded, a spokesman for the employers stated.
The strike by some 600 office clerical workers at the marine terminals and shipping line offices began Tuesday at the APM Terminal in Los Angeles and spread Wednesday to nine other facilities in the harbor.
The OCU posted pickets at the 10 terminals in the harbor where they represent workers, and ILWU dockworkers refused to cross the pickets, thereby shutting down about 70 percent of the two ports’ cargo-handling capacity. The ILWU dockworkers have no contractual complaint with the terminals but said they were standing in solidarity with the OCU workers.
Economic conditions in Southern California, and across the nation, are being impacted as the strike enters its second week. The Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California, which represents 150 drayage companies that contract with about 8,000 harbor truck drivers, said in a letter to the Federal Maritime Commission that the strike was having a devastating impact on the trucking and warehouse industries.
Strikes of this nature at the nation’s largest port complex have an economic impact of billions of dollars on the local and national economies as ships, trains and trucks are idled and warehouses cannot receive cargo.
Last Thursday, the National Retail Federation urged President Obama to get involved for the good of merchants across the country.
Over the weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged both parties to agree to mediation. The Harbor Employers Association for weeks now has asked the OCU to accept mediation.
Stephen Berry, the attorney who represents OCU employers, said employers continue to offer wage and pension increases that would increase the total wage and benefits package to about $190,000 a year per employee over the next 3 ½ years. The employers continue to offer an “absolute guarantee” against layoffs, Berry said.
OCU President John Fageaux said the strike is not over money but rather the alleged outsourcing of jobs to non-union workers in other states and countries.
Berry responded that the union has yet to file a formal charge of even one job being outsourced. The real issue, he said, is the refusal of employers to continue “featherbedding” practices in which a company must call in a temporary worker each time an OCU member is absent, even if there is no work to do. Also, when OCU workers retire or leave a company, they must be replaced, even if the position is no longer needed.
Berry said of immediate concern to the OCU is 50 positions the union wants filled that employers have determined do not have to be filled.
In a statement Sunday, the Harbor Employers Association said it made some changes to its contract offer the night before and employers were awaiting the OCU’s official response. The statement did not specify what those changes involved.