LA Port Strike Update: Both Sides Agree Upon Federal Mediation

Earlier today, striking OCU office clerical workers of the ILWU and their Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Shipping Association employers agreed to accept federal mediation in an attempt to end the week-long strike that has shutdown 10 of the 14 container terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Just three terminals (PIER A, PCT and B-136) in Long Beach remain open because they do not employ OCU clerical workers.

We anticipate that port and terminal executives will begin the mediation process within 24 hours.

ILWU leaders say they are demanding that jobs traditionally performed by their members remain classified as union work and subject to the union’s contract terms, even after employees holding them retire. They accuse management of seeking to outsource jobs to overseas workers paid for less.

The employers insist on reserving the right to fill only those jobs that need to be filled, and they accuse the union of seeking to set staffing at artificially high levels.

Dozens of trade and transportation groups have pleaded with negotiators to accept mediation in a dispute that has already cost the national economy billions of dollars. One hundred organizations signed a joint letter to President Obama seeking engagement from the White House, including a request for a Taft-Hartley back-to-work injunction if needed.

Unlike the labor clash a decade ago, which took place in the fall, the latest dispute is unfolding after the busy pre-holiday shipping season, limiting the scope of its ripple effect. Although the strike is estimated to cost the economy $1 billion per day, including lost wages of dockworkers, truckers and others stalled by the shutdown and the value of cargo rerouted by shippers, a number of major U.S. retailers said they have so far been largely unaffected by the strike because the bulk of their Christmastime inventory has already made it to store shelves.

Carriers are giving us daily status reports and most are taking a wait and see approach since the situation may change at any given time

OL&T’s view: OL&T sees this as a positive development in the negotiations between the ILWU and the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Shipping Association. The presence of federal mediators has proven valuable in negotiations such as these in our industry, and we believe that all parties share a common goal of getting our ports back up and running efficiently as soon as possible.