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PORTSIDELABOR  December 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDELABOR December 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Mayor: LA Port Strike to Go to Federal Mediation

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 4 Dec 2012 20:38:05 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (160 lines)

Mayor: LA Port Strike to Go to Federal Mediation
By JOHN ROGERS
Associated Press
Dec. 4, 2012
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/la-long-beach-port-strike-enters-week-17871291#.UL6ja45c854

LOS ANGELES-- For the most part, the work of the people
who file the invoices for the TV sets that arrive from
China and the cars that come from Japan goes all but
unnoticed as those products and countless others make
their way across the United States. Not this week,
however, after about 400 of the 600 unionized shipping
clerks who toil at the giant Ports of Los Angeles and
Long Beach walked off their jobs and quickly paralyzed
the nation's busiest shipping complex.

As the strike entered its eighth day Tuesday, the key
sticking point in negotiations, according to both
sides, are differences over the filling of both
temporary and permanent jobs in the future.

Union leaders maintain that management wants to save
money by outsourcing workers' jobs to places like China
and Taiwan, where it can pay workers half the money to
do the same work by computer. The result, they say,
would be one more American sector taking an economic
hit just to boost a giant company's profit margins.

"It's important to us to keep those jobs here in the
United States," said union spokesman Craig Merrilees.
"We're fighting against corporate greed."

Management maintains it won't outsource any jobs but it
wants more flexibility for hiring future employees so
that it doesn't have to pay people to fill slots that
aren't needed.

"Rather than having artificial staffing levels, we're
saying, give us the ability to make decisions based on
need, and we think that's a reasonable request," said
Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Harbor Employers
Association.

He added that management has promised to guarantee
current workers' their jobs until they retire or leave
the ports for other jobs.

Although the strikers, who are represented by the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union, are few in
number, their action received a big boost last week
when 10,000 members of their sister union, which
represents dockworkers, refused to cross their picket
lines.

That quickly shut down 10 of the ports' 14 terminals.

As the strike moved into its second week, labor experts
estimated it was costing the U.S. economy tens of
millions of dollars a day, idling thousands of truckers
who can't pick up cargo, disrupting rail traffic and,
if it continues, will begin emptying warehouses across
the nation.

"We estimate that the two ports handle about a billion
dollars' worth of cargo a day," said Art Wong,
spokesman for the Port of Long Beach. "Three-quarters
of the port complex is shut down, meaning $760 billion
a day worth of goods are just idled."

Those goods, he said, are either sitting on the docks
or offshore in huge cargo ships waiting to be unloaded
at a port complex that handles about 40 percent of the
cargo coming into the United States.

Meanwhile, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others are
calling on both sides to reach an agreement.

"The city of Los Angeles needs both of you to get back
to the bargaining table this week, to work with a
mediator and to hammer out a settlement before further
harm is done to our local economy," Villaraigosa wrote
in a letter to both sides before they resumed
negotiations Monday. He urged them to negotiate around
the clock until an agreement is reached.

On Monday, the Harbor Trucking Association asked the
Federal Maritime Commission to get involved, and the
National Retail Federation called on President Barack
Obama to do something.

"If there's no negotiating progress in the next day, I
would assume there will be calls for the president to
get involved and invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and get
people back to work," Kristin Monaco, an economics
professor at California State University, Long Beach,
and an expert on port and trucking industry labor
issues, said Monday.

Former President George W. Bush invoked the act in 2002
to end a 10-day dockworkers lockout that had spread
across the West Coast.

As they continue to negotiate, both sides say wages,
pensions, vacations and other benefits are not an
issue.

The union says average clerical salaries are $41 an
hour, or about $87,000 a year. When benefits are
factored in, that raises annual compensation to
$165,000, Getzug said.

He added that management has offered a new contract
that would raise that amount to about $195,000 by 2016,
along with providing 11 weeks of vacation.

"We know we're blessed," port clerk Trinnie Thompson
said by phone as she walked the picket line outside one
of the terminals Monday. "We're very thankful for our
jobs. We just want to keep them."

Thompson, who has worked at the ports for 23 years,
since she was 18, said clerks handle everything from
filing invoices and bills, making sure that cargo moves
off the dock quickly and gets where it is supposed to
go, to coordinating dockside visits by customs
inspectors.

Everything from food to fireworks, textiles to
high-tech electronics, move through the ports and onto
trucks and trains, headed to warehouses and
distribution centers all over the country.

Although the clerks, who have worked without a contract
for more than two years, must keep track of it all,
it's a job that more and more can be done by computer.
Workers say that leaves them vulnerable to outsourcing.

"We're not asking for more money, we're not asking for
an increase in benefits," Thompson said. "We're just
asking for security for our jobs. We want to protect
our jobs and our community.

____________________________________________

PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

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