Clerical Worker Strike Causes Partial Port Of Long Beach Shutdown
As of 2PM Wednesday, the movement of cargo is halted at three of the six container terminals at the Port of Long Beach as longshore clerks expanded the picket-line strike that officially began at the Port of Los Angeles Tuesday.
In an official statement from the Port, the affected Long Beach terminals are Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F, International Transportation Service at Pier G and Total Terminals International at Pier T. The open terminals are SSAT at Pier A, SSAT/Matson at Pier C and Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J.
John Fageaux, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 800 Office Clerical Unit employees says that the strike is in response to the last two-and-a-half years of failed negotiations over the outsourcing of jobs.
"We don't have an issue with the [job] automation. We already agreed to that," Fageaux told the Post just as employees began picketing at the Port of Long Beach. "What we won’t agree to is the outsourcing of jobs that are vital to community. Through the implementation of new technology, there have been portals created that allow people outside of the county to enter into the computer systems that bartering members usually work on. We feel it’s vital that we take a stand and make sure jobs stay here in our local community."
The Harbor Employers Association, which represents the 14 employers that the union is striking against, did not immediately return calls for comment, but in response to the Port of Los Angeles strike on Tuesday said that the union wants them to hire unneeded employees. HEA spokesman Stephen Barry also added that clerks get 11 weeks off per year, and absenteeism runs about 29 percent.
Several hundred dock workers at the Port of Los Angeles walked off the job on Monday and refused to return to work at one of the port's busiest terminals Tuesday. Berry said that at about 8PM Tuesday night, an arbitrator ruled that Local 63's Office Clerical Unit failed to bargain in a good faith impasse and that the picket lines are not bonafide. Workers were ordered to return to work at the Port of Los Angeles Wednesday, an order that was not only defied, but expanded to the Port of Long Beach.
The strike comes during one of the busiest shipping times of the year--during the holiday shopping season--when the two ports handle an average of $1 billion of cargo per day.
"I have not heard from the employers side since yesterday at noon," Fageaux said. "Before I put up picket signs I gave them one last chance to get back to table and they told me they weren't interested in talking about it. This will go on as long as it takes to get these guys to a table to find a deal that is acceptable for our members."