A strike by longshoremen crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Wednesday, spreading from one to 10 terminals in the two ports.
Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, said the Maritime Exchange of Southern California reported there were 23 vessels in the port, including 17 at berth and six at anchor.
According to the American Association of Port Authorities, the two ports handled just over 14 million TEU of cargo in 2011.
Daniel Hackett of the consulting firm Hackett Associates said that between September 2011 and August 2012 they handled about 42 percent of containerized imports and 28 percent of exports.
The strike began Tuesday at noon when clerical workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit set up pickets at a single facility, the APM Terminals (APMT) Pier 400 facility in the Port of Los Angeles.
Those workers do office work for the terminal, but other ILWU longshoremen and clerks working for other ILWU unit honored the picket line bringing terminal operations to a halt. A local arbitrator ruled that the picket line was not
bona fide, but ILWU longshoremen did not return to work.
Alan McCorkle, senior vice president at APMT's Los Angeles terminal, said two Maersk Line ships were idled and containers were unable to enter or leave the terminal by truck or train. He said this time of year probably 6,000 containers enter or leave the terminal by ship, train, or truck.
On Wednesday, the strike spread to other terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach where the OCU represents workers. A committee consisting of the ILWU and employers were meeting at the headquarters of the Pacific Maritime Association to discuss the strike. The PMA did not return phone calls seeking an update on those talks.
By Wednesday afternoon, John Fageaux Jr., president of ILWU Local 63, told American Shipper
that the 800 members of his local had gone on strike against all 14 of the steamship agencies and terminals at which it represents workers, and the decision by other longshoremen to honor those picket lines had effectively closed down terminals in both Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Fageaux said the union was striking to prevent the outsourcing of jobs.
Fageaux, whose local has been negotiating with employers to renew a contract that expired June 30, 2010, said “we’ve been meeting with the companies for more than two years, but they’re still concealing their outsourcing – even when they’ve been caught red-handed. These employers seem to have an insatiable appetite for outsourcing.”
He claimed the “harbor community” has lost at least 51 permanent positions during the past five years, and that the companies have announced plans to take away another 76 in the future.
The Port of Long Beach said these terminals had closed as of 2 p.m., Wednesday: Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F which handles OOCL ships, International Transportation Service which handles "K" Line at Pier G, and Total Terminals International at Pier T. Three other terminals that do not have OCU employees - SSAT at Pier A, SSAT/Matson at Pier C and Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J - were open.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said seven of the eight terminals in his city’s port were shut “with numerous ships sitting idle at berth.”
In a letter to Fageaux, and Stephen L. Berry, chief negotiator for the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association which is representing employers, the mayor said the “City of Los Angeles needs both of you to get back to the bargaining table this week, to work with a mediator, and to hammer out a settlement before further harm is done to our local economy. There is no time to waste.”
The Port of Los Angeles said in addition to APMT's Pier 400 these terminals have been shut down: APL, California United Terminals, China Shipping, Evergreen, Yang Ming and Yusen Terminals. It said only the TraPac Terminal, which does not have OCU employees was open.
Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), said “a work stoppage at America’s two busiest ports just as the holiday shopping season begins is a recipe for disaster. If the strike isn’t resolved quickly, the effects on retailers, their customers and the economy will be enormous. We urge the parties to quickly resolve the dispute and get back to work in order to avoid the substantial economic damage a prolonged work stoppage would surely cause.”
The Long Beach Business Journal
said U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, also a California Democrat, issued a joint statement calling for a resolution to the labor dispute between ILWU Local 63 OCU and the employers represented by the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association (LA/LBHEA).
“We urge both sides to come together and resolve this dispute so we can protect the economy of the Los Angeles region, the West Coast and our nation, which will be adversely affected by the closures at these ports,” the statement read.
The ILWU posted comments from three Democratic congresswomen from California - Grace F. Napolitano, Judy Chu, and Janice Hahn - expressing support for the union.
“Having been a secretary myself, I know very well the concerns of clerical workers including safety, fair wages, and benefits for their families,” said a statement from Napolitano.
“We must continue to protect these jobs from being shipped overseas while ensuring fair treatment of those who have helped the nation’s economy through their hard work.”
Napolitano is a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Fageaux also claimed that APMT employees had violated the law by listening to union representative phone calls.
The president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Paddy Crumlin, said “these are extremely serious charges," and Harold J. Daggett, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association which represents workers on the East Coast, said “We are outraged to hear of this possible breach of union members privacy.”
The LA/LBHEA said “the OCU’s conduct shows an irresponsible willingness to jeopardize port operations and thousands of jobs in the Los Angeles area in an effort to pressure the employers into accepting its unreasonable demands."
It said it had offered to increase OCU annual
compensation packages to over $190,000 in wages and benefits by 2016 and employers had proposed giving OCU employees "average annual wages up to approximately $90,000 per year and pensions
of up to $75,000 per year. The OCU have demanded more."
The employer group said "the OCU’s actions mark a dangerous escalation in the ongoing labor dispute. If the OCU continues its strike, the negative effects on jobs and the economy will be felt nationwide."
It further added the "OCU has attempted to justify its actions in the media by perpetuating myths that they are not fighting over money and that employers are taking away jobs" but said those claims "do not hold water." - Chris Dupin