LA Port Strike Update: Deal Reached to End Strike

Agreement Reached

Negotiators reached an agreement to end the strike at the ports of LA and Long Beach late Tuesday, less than two hours after federal mediators arrived from Washington, D.C.settling the eight-day labor clash. Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villagraigosa, announced the deal moments after union negotiators voted to approve it on his official Twitter account.

Officials for the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers (ILWU) Local 63 said the hundreds of striking clerical employees who walked off the job last Tuesday, and the thousands of longshoremen who refused to cross their picket lines, would return to work starting Wednesday morning.

“I’m really pleased to tell all of you that my 10,000 longshore workers in the ports of LA and Long Beach are going to start moving cargo on these ships,” said Ray Familathe, vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. “We’re going to get cargo moved throughout the supply chain and the country and get everybody those that they’re looking for in those stores.”

The Issue at Hand

At issue during the lengthy negotiations was the union’s contention that terminal operators wanted to outsource future clerical jobs out of state and overseas — an allegation the shippers denied. Shippers said they wanted the flexibility not to fill jobs that were no longer needed as clerks quit or retired. Both sides said salaries, vacation, pensions and other benefits were not a major issue.

The clerks, who make an average base salary of $87,000 a year, have some of the best-paying blue-collar jobs in the nation. When vacation, pension and other benefits are factored in, the employers said, their annual compensation package reached $165,000 a year. Union leaders said if future jobs were not kept at the ports, the result would be another section of the U.S. economy taking a serious economic hit so that huge corporations could increase their profit margins by exploiting people in other states and countries who would be forced to work for less.

Though no details about the terms of the deal were released, a statement from the workers’ union said it had won new protections preventing jobs from being outsourced and that the shippers have promised the current clerks lifetime employment.

What’s Next

Combined, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle about 44 percent of all cargo that arrives in the U.S. by sea – approximately $1 billion a day in merchandise. The clerks handle such tasks as filing invoices and billing notices, arranging dock visits by customs inspectors, and ensuring that cargo moves off the dock quickly and gets where it’s supposed to go. According to port officials, the strike kept about $760 million a day in cargo from being delivered. Cargo stacked up on the docks and in adjacent rail yards or, in many cases, remained on arriving ships and at least 18 ships were diverted to other ports along the West Coast.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that US President Barack Obama was concerned about the West Coast strike. “We — and that includes the president — continue to monitor the situation in Los Angeles closely and urge the parties to continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Pressed on whether Obama could intervene in the dispute, he added: “He is concerned… and we at the White House and broadly in the administration are concerned.”

Authorities said port activity would resume this morning – but point out that the agreement will not be officially finalized until union members have passed their vote.

OL&T appreciates the sensitive nature of these discussions while at the same time we are committed to providing continuity of service to our international clientele.

Source: Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, BBC, Time U.S.