A strike by members of the 600 members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63, Office Clerical Unit (OCU) enters its second week today.
The clerks first went on strike last Tuesday at the APM Terminal in Los Angeles, then added pickets at nine additional terminals on Wednesday. They and 14 ship agencies and terminals have been trying over the past two and a half years to negotiate a new contract to replace one that expired June 30, 2010.
With picket lines being honored by longshore members of the ILWU in the two ports, over 80 percent of the port traffic in Los Angeles and more than half of the activity in Long Beach has come to a halt. At 10 of the 14 container terminals in the port, ships are not being loaded or unloaded, and trucks and trains are not entering or leaving the facilities.
Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU, said Monday afternoon the union is continuing to negotiate with employers, adding “it’s still tough, but things are moving in the right direction.”
Neither he nor employer representatives could be immediately reached Tuesday morning to see if there were any developments overnight.
The strike is prompting calls by both business groups and politicians for the two sides to resolve their differences.
In a letter sent on Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on both sides “to start bargaining around the clock, with the assistance of a federal or other mediator, until an agreement is reached.”
Yesterday White House Press Secretary Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president is continuing “to monitor the situation in Los Angeles closely and urge the parties to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, American Shipper
has attempted to answer a number of questions on the minds of shippers:
Who is on strike?
About 600 members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63, Office Clerical Unit (OCU).
What do they do?
Clerical work at 14 steamship agencies and terminals in the port. They work in an office environment, not on the dock.
Why are they on strike?
They have been unable to agree on a contract to replace a labor agreement that expired June 30, 2010.
Who represents the employers?
Each of the 14 companies has an individual contract with the OCU, but attorney Stephen Berry of Paul Hastings, who represents the employers, said all 14 companies have made an identical wage and benefit offer to employees. The employers have created an association called the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association.
Why is this having such widespread impact?
Thousands of other ILWU longshoremen in the two ports, who actually handle containers and do checker work at the terminals, are honoring the picket lines set up at 10 of the 14 terminals at the ports.
Why are only 10 of the 14 terminals affected?
Some of the terminals do not have members of the OCU working for them.
How much do the clerks make?
The employers say they are paid an average of $85,000 and have a compensation package that amounts to $165,000, which includes a free health plan and pensions of up to $60,000 per year and total paid time off of over a quarter of the working year.
What does the union want?
An end to alleged outsourcing of jobs. OCU President John Fageaux says employers are “concealing their outsourcing – even when they’ve been caught red-handed. These employers seem to have an insatiable appetite for outsourcing.”
He claims the community around the harbor community has lost at least 51 permanent positions during the past 5 years, and that the companies have announced plans to take away another 76 in the future.
What are the employers offering?
Sunday afternoon, in their last public statement, the harbor employers said they are offering concessions on staffing, wage and pension increases, an absolute job guarantee against layoffs, and a promise to maintain all other OCU benefits that would bring the average annual OCU wage-and-benefits package to more than $190,000 over the next three and one-half years.
They said over the weekend they also offered the OCU new proposals containing further concessions in what they claim are “featherbedding" demands that employers call in temporary workers and hire new employees even if there is no work for those individuals to perform. It said the OCU immediately rejected the proposals.
Mainland-to-Hawaii steamship lines are a lifeline to the islands. What is happening to them?
Matson’s terminal in Long Beach in not affected by the strike. Horizon Lines normally calls at the APM Terminal in Los Angeles, but was allowed to move to TraPac’s Terminal instead.
What's happening to ships at the port?
At 7:30 this morning, the Marine Exchange of Southern California said there were 55 vessels in port including 15 container vessels at berth and 13 at anchor. Today, five more container vessels were expected, eight on Wednesday, 11 on Thursday and eight on Friday.
Are ships being diverted?
The Marine Exchange said Monday afternoon that as many as 16, and possibly 17, ships had been diverted to Oakland or Mexico - 9 or 10 to Oakland, three to Mazatlan, two to Ensenada, and one to Mazatlan by carriers that included Maersk, APL, Hapag Lloyd, Yang Ming, Evergreen, China Shipping, COSCO and Hanjin. Some of those ships may just be modifying their rotations and will return to Los Angeles or Long Beach.
How much trade is impacted.
Daniel Hackett of the consulting firm Hackett Associates said that between September 2011 and August 2012 the ports of Los Angeles they handled about 42 percent of containerized imports and 28 percent of exports. A port spokesman says seven of the eight terminals in Los Angeles are affected and account for more than 80 percent of all the cargo in the port. In Long Beach three of the six terminals are closed and they handle more than half the cargo.
Can the federal government intervene?
Some shippers want the government to do just that. At the daily press conference at the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney answered a question about the strike on Monday this way: "I can just tell you that we - and that includes the president - continue to monitor the situation in Los Angeles closely and urge the parties to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.”
Could the president take more decisive action?
He could use provisions in the Taft Hartley Act, as President Bush did to end a 10-day coastwide strike by members of the ILWU in 2002, but that is widely seen as an anathema to labor unions.
How does Taft-Hartley work?
President Obama would have to declare a “national emergency” and return the longshoremen and employers to the bargaining table and prevent a work stoppage for an 80 day cooling off period.
The president would do that by first appointing a board of inquiry, which would produce a report for him on the dispute. Upon receiving the report, he can direct the attorney general to seek an injunction in a U.S. District Court if the court finds the work stoppage affects an entire or substantial part of an industry, and will imperil the nation's health or safety.
The two parties would then be required to resume bargaining for another 60 days. They would be assisted by a federal mediator.
After 60 days, if the dispute has not been settled, the board of inquiry reconvenes and issues another report to the president. They report on the efforts that have been made toward settlement, the position of each of the parties, and the last offer of settlement from the employer.
Then, while the cooling-off period continues, the National Labor Relations Board during the next 15 days allows employees to vote by secret ballot on whether they want to accept the final offer from management. Within five days, the NLRB certifies the results of the election.
The president then submits to Congress a report on the proceedings, along with the results of the ballot by the NLRB and his recommendations, but after this 80-day period, a strike or lockout can resume. Congress could, theoretically, pass legislation and impose a settlement on the parties. It does not appear that has ever happened under Taft-Hartley, though it has under the Railway Labor Act. - Chris Dupin