The two U.S. senators from California, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are urging clerical workers for shipping companies and their employers to work toward resolving their differences and reach a contract.
Negotiators for International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Marine Clerks Association Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU), and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents more than a dozen terminals and liner carriers met again this week to work toward reaching a pact to replace a contract that expired in April 2010.
In a letter
sent Tuesday to John Fageaux Jr., president of Local 63, and Stephen Berry, an attorney who acts as lead negotiator for the employers, Boxer and Feinstein said “with the fragile state of California’s economy and growing competition from other U.S. ports, it is essential that both parties reach an agreement that will protect these important jobs and allow the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to continue operating without disruption.
“We strongly encourage you to resume negotiations in good faith as soon as possible,” the senators add.
A note on the Harbor Employers' Website said negotiations were continuing on Wednesday.
Since the negotiations began in 2010, the OCU has struck selected employers three times - once for nine days and twice for one day. The most recent strike was in November 2011.
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.
Many shippers view West Coast ports, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach, as an alternate gateway if an ILA contract is not reached and ports on the East and Gulf coasts are closed. - Chris Dupin