The National Retail Federation has urged President Obama “to use all means necessary” to restart stalled contract negotiations between management and striking union workers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit has placed pickets outside a majority of terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and other longshoremen are refusing to cross the picket lines. As a result, ships are not being loaded or unloaded and trucks and trains cannot move containers on or off 10 terminals.
The Los Angeles Times
reported that two ships have been diverted to other ports, one to Oakland and another to an unnamed port in Mexico.
“A prolonged strike at the nation’s largest ports would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy,” read a letter from NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay to the president. “We call upon you to use all means necessary to get the two sides back to the negotiating table.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
NRF noted that in 2002 a 10-day lockout at West Coast ports led to significant supply chain disruptions, which took six months to remedy, and cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day.
“An extended strike (in Los Angeles and Long Beach) this time could have a greater impact considering the fragile state of the U.S. economy,” the letter stated. “The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached.”
The ILWU said in a statement issued today that a joint committee of management and labor concluded that longshoremen had a contractual right to refuse to cross the OCU picket lines.
“The ILWU-PMA Coast Labor Relations Committee that establishes policy and administers the contract between the employer and union on the West Coast waterfront on Wednesday agreed that ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) picket lines at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were bona fide,” said the statement from the ILWU Coast Longshore Division. “The agreement confirms that longshoremen in ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 have the right to refuse to cross OCU pickets under the collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association."
The ILWU statement further said “the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor though impacted, remains open for commerce at greater than 25 percent capacity.” In Los Angeles, seven of eight container terminals are open and in Long Beach three of six container terminals are open.
Craig Merrilees, communications director for the ILWU, said “hopefully, yesterday’s resolution on the legality of the strike will pave the way to tackle the central issue of outsourcing. Clerical workers are determined to stop good jobs from disappearing in the harbor area – and reappearing in Texas and Taiwan.”
Ray Ortiz Jr., an ILWU Coast Committeeman who represents all 30 longshore local unions on the West Coast, said “Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help. Sure it's 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. By standing with OCU, we stand with the community.”
John Fageaux, president of ILWU Local 63 OCU, said earlier this week that phone calls by union representatives were listened to by APMT employees.
Alan McCorkle, senior vice president of APM Terminals’ Los Angeles, said his company was “concerned about these allegations. It is not our policy to listen to union calls. As is our normal policy, we have commenced an investigation and we have no further comment at this time.” - Chris Dupin