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Port strike enters fourth day


LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Contract negotiations were set to resume late this morning as a crippling strike by longshore clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach entered its fourth day.

The two sides were scheduled to meet at Banning’s Landing in Wilmington.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, which represents 800 workers, and the Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 shipping companies, met Thursday evening for the first time since the strike began Tuesday. The two sides discussed processes necessary to keep the talks going and the urgency to end the walkout.

The morning meetings were expected to get to the substance of the stalemate–language in the contract that addresses whether or not the shipping companies can hire workers outside of the port to help direct cargo traffic.

John Fageaux, president of the clerical workers union, said the language remains the key sticking point and accuses the shipping companies of outsourcing some of the clerical workers’ functions. The Harbor Employers Association vehemently denies outsourcing any jobs.

“If they’re not outsourcing, then they shouldn’t have a problem with the language we’re proposing to prevent outsourcing,” Fageaux said.

Stephen Berry, the lead negotiator for the Harbor Employers Association, said “not one OCU job has been sent overseas, or anywhere else.” Berry accused the union of ignoring a contract proposal that would offer workers guaranteed job protection and somewhere in the range of $42-$43 per hour in
wages, regardless of the workload at the port.

Fageaux said the union was prepared to stay at the negotiating table as long as necessary to end the strike.

The Harbor Employers Association offered the most recent contract proposal on Monday, the day before the walkout began.

Thousands of longshoremen, also represented by the ILWU, continued to honor the picket lines today at 10 of 14 shipping terminals in the harbor, bringing cargo traffic at the nation’s busiest port complex to barely a crawl.

At least seven ships rerouted to other ports as of Thursday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors shipping traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It’s unclear whether the ships were just reshuffling itineraries and planning to circle back to L.A. when the
strike ends or rerouting cargo that translates into lost work for longshoremen in L.A. and Long Beach.

On Thursday, political and business leaders seeking to avert economic damage pressured both sides to come to an agreement. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called both sides from Brazil, where he was a on a trade mission, and the head of the National Retail Federation sent a letter to the White House urging the
president to use his leverage to end the strike.

“A prolonged strike at the nation’s largest ports would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote in the letter to Obama. “We call upon you to use all means necessary to get the two sides back to the negotiating table.”

The strike is the largest work stoppage since a 10-day lockout at the ports in 2002, which drew then-President George W. Bush’s involvement. That strike led to significant retail supply chain disruptions that took six months to recover from and cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day, according
to the Retail Federation.