LOS ANGELES — The lead negotiators for striking office clerical workers and waterfront employers in Los Angeles-Long Beach said Wednesday they negotiated a good contract that their membership will be able to live with until it expires in June 2016.
“Neither side got everything they wanted, but both sides got what they needed,” said John Fageaux, president of the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63. “The true story here is that the employers stuck together for 2 1/2 years and took an eight-day strike. It is unprecedented,” said Stephen Berry, the attorney who represented the Waterfront Employers Association in the contract negotiations.
The two sides reached the tentative contract Tuesday night after a strike that shut down 10 of the 14 container terminals in the nation’s largest port complex.
OCU members now will have improved visibility into the computer systems of the shipping lines and terminal operators so they are assured union work is not being outsourced, Fageaux said. The OCU wants to make sure technology is being used to make its jobs more efficient, and not to outsource OCU jobs to non-union workers in other states and other countries, he said.
Employers were adamant since the negotiations began 2 ½ years ago that long-standing “featherbedding” practices would end, Berry said. Companies have been required to pay sick pay to absent workers, plus pay a replacement worker from the hiring hall, even if there was no work to do, he said.
Likewise, when workers retired or left the companies, the employers had to replace those workers even if there was no work to be done. Those practices were generally addressed in the tentative contract. “We didn’t get everything, but we achieved certain gains,” Berry said.
The next step will be for the OCU leadership to present the tentative contract to 16 companies — the 14 involved in these negotiations and two other companies that already had tentative agreements. Fageaux said the OCU would begin to work through that process in the coming week.
The eight-day strike and round-the-clock negotiations concluded with a Hollywood ending. At about 11:15 p.m. Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa arrived at the negotiations after completing a business mission to South America. Villaraigosa went directly from the airport to the negotiations and was involved in the talks throughout the night and into Tuesday morning until both parties agreed to accept federal mediation.
Two top-level mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service dropped what they were doing in Washington, which included work on the National Hockey League strike, and flew to Los Angeles Tuesday evening.
While the mediators were in transit, the tentative contract had been agreed upon, leading the lead mediator to observe that for the first time is his career, just the threat of federal mediators showing up at negotiations was enough to get the parties to resolve their dispute.