A strike by clerical workers in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at 10 of the ports' 14 container terminals entered its seventh on Monday.
Expressions of frustration by government and business leaders continue and ship congestion in the harbor could increase dramatically in the days ahead.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for round-the-clock negotiations with a mediator between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association (LA/LBHEA)
, according to a letter quoted by the Los Angeles Times
The strike is "costing our local economy billions of dollars.
The cost is too great to continue down this failed path," the mayor
said. "Mediation is essential and every available hour must be used."
Bruce Carlton, the president and CEO of the National Industrial Transportation League, the nation's largest shippers group, sent a letter last week to President Obama
urging him "to employ all measures at your disposal to encourage the two sides to resume talks and end the work stoppage."
A 2002 lockout of ILWU longshoremen at West Coast ports was ended only after President Bush used the Taft-Hartley Act.
According to the Marine Exchange of California, as of early Monday morning
there were a total of 23 containerships, and 51 vessels of all sorts, in
the harbor. Congestion could get worse in coming days. According to information
posted on the exchange's website, eight additional containerships were
due to berth at the harbor today, 12 on Tuesday, eight on Wednesday, and six on Thursday.
No work was being done at 10 of 14 container terminals in the ports as
longshoremen continued to refuse to cross picket lines thrown up by 600
striking office workers represented by the OCU, an affiliate that represents clerical workers at terminals and shipping agencies. The OCU and harbor employers have been holding on-off talks since April 2010 in order to come up with a new contract to replace one that expired on June 30, 2010. When OCU workers set up picket lines last week, members of the wide ILWU, the longshoremen and checkers involved in moving cargo at the terminals, refused to cross the picket lines, effectively shutting down most of the two nation's two largest ports.
The LA/LBHEA said that on Saturday it "offered the OCU new proposals containing further concessions in connection with the OCU’s 'featherbedding' demands -- the requirements that employers call in temporary workers and hire new employees even if there is no work for those individuals to perform. The OCU immediately rejected the proposals."
The harbor employers also said they "continue to offer wage and pension increases, an absolute job guarantee against layoffs, and a promise to maintain all other OCU benefits that the employers have previously offered -- all of which would bring the average annual OCU wage-and-benefits package to more than $190,000 over the next three and one-half years."
"The weeklong strike by the clerks is now expected to extend into a second week, leaving hundreds of thousands of people who support port operations without work and severely impacting the local and national economies. The strike’s impact is widening and is already costing the national economy billions of dollars by many estimates. Sadly, the OCU continues to put the self-interests of 600 members ahead of the local community, the ports’ future viability, and the economic welfare of an entire country," said a statement from the LA/LB HEA.
The OCU has said jobs of its members are being outsourced, which the
harbor employer association denies, saying "not one OCU job has been
sent overseas, or anywhere else, nor have there been any layoffs. The
51 jobs the OCU identifies no longer exist due to retirements, deaths
and normal attrition. They were not filled because the jobs were no
longer needed -- and this was by agreement between the employers and
union as a way of avoiding layoffs during the greatest economic downturn
since the Great Depression."
Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department,
AFL-CIO, issued a statement Friday afternoon in which he repeated the oursourcing allegation, saying the OCU was "drawing
a line against the steady and irresponsible outsourcing of their jobs
to the lowest bidder."