“Port Woes Starting to Damage Businesses,” read a front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal Feb. 17. “As employers at the ports along the West Coast on Monday refused to unload ships for the sixth day out of the past 10, their nine-month contract dispute with port workers is becoming a significant business problem,” the article said.
The number of container ships waiting to dock at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach increased to 33 by Feb. 16, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Employers, including Walmart, Levi Strauss & Co. and Honda Motor Co., are reporting shortages of products and parts. Losses are estimated to be over $1 billion a day.
Steve Getzug, a Pacific Maritime Association spokesman, said the employers shut down work to avoid paying overtime and holiday premium pay. In January, the association announced that it would not order crews to unload ships on night shift. It also suspended weekend work Feb. 6-8.
The dockworkers’ contract expired July 1. Port bosses accuse unionists of carrying out a coast-wide slowdown, aiming to blame workers for delays.
The union countered with photographs posted on its website showing sufficient space for thousands of containers on the docks, and blamed the port bosses for a shortage of truck chassis and the rail bosses for a shortage of trains as a result of an increase in more profitable oil transport.
The Pacific Maritime Association made an updated proposal Feb. 4 for a five-year contract, making some concessions to dockworkers, including a 14 percent pay increase over five years, continuing to pay 100 percent for health care and granting union jurisdiction over maintenance and repair of truck chassis. Several key issues remain unresolved, including how workplace disputes are arbitrated.
“The PMA is trying to divide us by using lies and tactics to turn the public against us and turn locals against the negotiating committee and the rank and file against each other,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath in a Feb. 11 video message to the union membership. “Nobody divides the ILWU. There is only one way to win this battle — to stick together.”
Under pressure from the mounting disruption to trade and corporate profits, President Barack Obama sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez to California to increase pressure on the union for a settlement. Meetings began Feb. 17 as ports began reopening.
Oil workers: ĎOn strike for safer job conditionsí
Walkout in interest of whole working class
Oil train derails, explodes, fouling river in WVa
On the Picket Line
Facing govít threats, Canadian railworkers end strike
Conferences in March to discuss fight for rail safety
No govít intervention in labor battles!
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