Strike Threat At California Ports Over, New Concerns For East And Gulf Coasts
February 22, 2013
Concerns about a strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach can finally be put to rest but there are new ones when it comes to talks involving ports on the other side of the country.
Unions representing clerical workers at the Southern California ports say members have voted in favor of a new labor contract, following a tentative agreement between them and terminal operators being reached in December.
In a joint statement the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit and the Harbor Employees Association said the vote affects some 600 people who went on strike in December, shutting down the nation’s busiest port complex for eight days. A federal mediator was then brought in to resolve the matter. This latest contract runs through June 30, 2016.
John Fageaux, lead negotiator for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit and Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the employers of the OCU at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, said, “The approved agreements, to be finalized in coming days, are good for workers, good for employers and – most of all – important in ensuring smooth operations at our Southern California ports. Our local, regional and national economies depend on these ports, and the agreements ratified tonight pave the way for continued growth in the years ahead.”
Meanwhile, there may be clouds on the horizon when it comes to labor talks involving East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, despite a tentative deal being reached between longshoremen and port operators earlier this month.
While members of the International Longshoremen’s Association are expected to vote and approve the deal most likely in March, published reports indicate time is running out to resolve issues specific to certain ports and talks are proceeding poorly. March 1 is the deadline to reach tentative agreements on local pacts, such as work rules and pensions, including for longshoremen at the Port of New York and New Jersey.
International Business Times and The Journal of Commerce says this means that even if ILA members approve the master contract, but the so-called side issues are not resolved, the overall pact would not go into effect. The reported reason is the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents freight terminal operators and owners of cargo ships, hasn’t been able to negotiate cost reductions for its members with the ILA. Plus the AFL-CIO is reportedly putting pressure on the ILA to keep a tough stance when it comes to the local talks.
There are fears that all of this could result in a strike by longshoremen from Maine to Texas, which would affect more than a third of U.S. imports, meaning less freight for some trucking companies to move and slowing the U.S. economy in the process.