Several sources, including the Washington, D.C.-based Waterfront Coalition, are reporting that contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Marine Clerks Association
Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU), and the Los Angeles/Long Beach
Harbor Employers Association, are in danger of breaking down.
"There have been several reports regarding OCU's return to negotiations this morning, as well as yesterday evening. We have word from a trustworthy source, close to negotiations, that today's session is merely a formality. Today's negotiation will be attended because it has already been scheduled, but given the context of yesterday's talks, we may likely see picketing after a very short session," said a memo
from Aaron Guffey, industry affairs representative of the Waterfront Coaltion, which represents manufacturers, retailers and agricultural exporters and importers as well as transportation providers moving international commerce through America’s blue water ports.
"Please reach out to anyone close to the issue to encourage meaningful contract negotiations. We are in a much tighter spot than it might seem.," Guffey told the coalition's members.
The OCU and Harbor Employers Association, which represents more than a dozen terminals and liner carriers in Southern California met again this week to work toward reaching a pact to replace a contract that expired in April 2010. There have been sporadic work stoppages at selected terminals - two lasting one day and one lasting nine days since the negotiations began.
Local 63 OCU workers perform clerical work inside the offices of terminals and liner carriers and are not involved directly in loading or unloading ships. Originally an area arbitrator said that while OCU workers could strike, other ILWU members could not honor those picket lines without violating their own contract and had to work. However, that ruling was appealed and this April an arbitrator held that other ILWU workers could honor the picket line.
This has raised alarm among some shippers who are concerned about the possibility of a strike by West Coast longshoremen at the same time the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), the union that represents longshoremen on the East and Gulf coasts, is seeking to negotiate a new contract for one that expires Sept. 30. - Chris Dupin