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Tensions Rise At West Coast Ports

July 28, 2002

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Truckers hauling containers at West Coast ports are closely watching dockworker contract talks that stalled out last week.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, representing about 10,000 West Coast dockworkers, suspended contract talks until Aug. 13, reports the Los Angeles Times. Negotiations have been going on for three months; the contract officially ended July 1, but both sides have agreed to keep going.
West Coast locals also transferred the power to call for a strike vote to the negotiating committee. Even though union officials say they have no plans to shut down the ports, the Pacific Maritime Assn. called the actions “a threat to an already fragile economy.” For a strike to take place, the negotiating committee would have to mail ballots to all members for a strike authorization vote, a process that would take weeks.
Two weeks ago, the union offered to accept new technology it said would eliminate hundreds of jobs. But the Pacific Maritime Assn. came back with a counter-offer that the union rejected last week, saying it would have allowed for the outsourcing of union jobs. The PMA, however, says the contract would have increased longshoremen’s overall compensation by 17 percent.
The Teamsters union, which is trying to organize port intermodal drivers, has expressed its support for the ILWU in these negotiations. A Labor Day solidarity event at key ports is a possibility if contract negotiations are still under way.

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