Some workers at the Port of Los Angeles went on strike at noon Tuesday, effectively shutting down operations at one of the port's busiest terminals.
Clerical workers at Pier 400 walked off the job to protest their inability to negotiate new contracts with terminal operators. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63's Office Clerical Unit has been trying to negotiate a new agreement with 14 employers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles since its last one expired on June 30, 2010.
Other bargaining units are honoring the strike, which is occurring only at Pier 400 in San Pedro, a Port of Los Angeles spokesman said.
Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU based in San Francisco, said he is not sure how long the strike will last or whether it will spread to other terminals at the Port of Los Angeles or to the Port of Long Beach.
Merrilees also said he does not know why the union chose Pier 400, but said the clerical workers have similar complaints of all employers at both ports.
"Big companies are outsourcing good jobs that the harbor community needs and can't afford to lose," ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said. "There have been talks for 2 1/2 years and companies continue to deny the outsourcing problem. The strike may cause them to look at this as a real problem instead of the fantasy they claim it is.
According to a union release, terminal operators have eliminated 51 clerical jobs in the past five years.
Unlike other unions at the two ports, the clerical workers unit negotiates separate contracts with 14 companies, but officials say all employers generally agree to terms at roughly the same time.
Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, called Tuesday's strike a "disappointing development."
"The OCU has refused to address the needs of the employers," Getzug said in a statement. "Instead, they are pressing demands that would weaken competitiveness of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports while rewarding and sustaining absenteeism and inefficiency. The OCU are already the highest paid clerical workers in America."
Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said port officials are urging the unions and management to come to an agreement.
"We know that both sides understand the critical importance of keeping cargo moving through the San Pedro complex, and we urge them to work diligently toward finding a mutually agreeable solution."
Late Tuesday night, a labor arbitrator ruled the strike was not bonafide and directed the ILWU members back to work. A spokesman for the Employers Association said workers are supposed to return at 9 a.m.
ILWU may appeal the arbitrators decision, but that process usually takes weeks or months. The workers could also ignore the arbitrator's decision, which could cause some chaos at the ports.
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