Three of the more than a dozen bargaining units representing office clerical workers in Los Angeles-Long Beach sent employers and union leaders scrambling Thursday by rejecting a tentative contract agreement that was reached in December.
The Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 and waterfront employers were meeting Thursday to develop a response to the surprising vote that took place late Wednesday.
Negotiators for the OCU met on and off since April 2010 to develop a contract covering about 600 workers who process shipping documents at the offices of shipping lines and terminal operators in Southern California.
With the threat of federal mediation hanging over their heads, negotiators on Dec. 4 hammered out a tentative contract that was subsequently presented to the OCU bargaining units for ratification.
The voting structure is such that each company that hires OCU workers is a distinct bargaining unit, and each unit votes separately on the contract. On Wednesday after business hours, most of the 14 units voted to approve the proposed contract, but three units rejected it.
Union and management representatives on Thursday were attempting to determine what the next move should be. One school of thought believes that all units must approve the agreement or there is no contract. Another view is that the contract is valid at those units that approved the agreement, and negotiations should resume with the three that rejected it.
There were no pickets at the ports on Thursday and no immediate talk of posting any. Cargo interests and employers are nevertheless concerned. The OCU shut down cargo handling at 10 terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4 by posting pickets at the facilities. ILWU dockworkers refused to cross the lines.