Port Business Grinds to a Halt as Workers Remain on Strike
November 30, 2012 8:31 am
A strike by clerical workers has brought 10 out of 14 terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to a standstill, with 17 ships idling and others planning alternate routes to ports in Oakland and Mexico. The strike was called by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63′s Office Clerical Unit, a union for office workers who provide support and billing services for terminal operators. Dockworkers, who said they would stage sympathy strikes if the strike was ruled justified (as it was Wednesday night), have joined the strike and brought port business to a halt.
The clerical workers, who have been working under the terms of an expired contract with 14 employers since 2010, are looking for a contract that safeguards against the outsourcing of their jobs, while employers are calling for an end to the process of “featherbedding” — or providing employment when there is no work. Both sides returned to negotiations Thursday night, as the strike concluded its third day.
Ray Ortiz, Jr. spoke to the Los Angeles Times on the dockworkers’ decision to support the strike:
“Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help,” said Ray Ortiz, Jr., a member of the ILWU’s Coast Committee. “Sure, it’s a sacrifice to give up a paycheck when you refuse to cross the picket, but we believe it’s in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor area to retain these good local jobs.”
As the strike grinds on and business sails elsewhere, 14 members of the Southern California congressional delegation sent a letter to each side urging them to sit down and hammer out their disputes. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villairagosa concurred, citing detriment to the local economy. The National Retail Federation implored President Obama to step in in order to force the union and the companies to settle their differences.
As the port sits idling, ILWU employers are watching their business go elsewhere. The clerical workers are striking to make sure their jobs don’t do the same.
Image from here