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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Port Of Los Angeles Labor Dispute Shuts Down More Terminals

Brianna Sacks |
November 29, 2012 | 2:43 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The Port of Los Angeles announced that due to the labor action, seven container terminals have been shut down. (Brianna Sacks/Neon Tommy)
The Port of Los Angeles announced that due to the labor action, seven container terminals have been shut down. (Brianna Sacks/Neon Tommy)
Union members fighting against job outsourcing continued to walk the picket lines Thursday, going into the third day of a strike that has shut down most of the Port of Los Angeles.

Clerical workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Union claim the port has been outsourcing jobs overseas, resulting in a loss of over 50 jobs.

The union set up a handful of picketers on Pier 400 Tuesday, bringing a two-and-a-half-year-old contract battle over job outsourcing to a head.

The Port of Los Angeles announced that due to the labor action, seven container terminals were shut down, and only one container terminal remains open. The port urged both parties to find a solution.

"Seven of our eight container terminals are now closed from the stirke and ships are backed up waiting to enter, and some are leaving," said Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the Port of Los Angeles.

"Ships are now diverting to other ports," he continued. "And when you start losing ships, you are losing jobs and dollars. Each ship that comes in has millions of dollars of cargo and now some are leaving to ports in Oakland and Mexico."

Sanfield explained that the port is not involved in the strike, and that needs to be clarified.

"We rent land to the container terminals, which are privately held compaines," he said. "The union is striking against those terminal operators, not the port itself."

Port of Los Angeles executive Director Geraldine Knatz released a statement this afternoon calling for an immediate resolution, stating,

"This dispute has impacted not only our work force but all stakeholders who ship goods through our complex and potentially the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are directly and indirectly related to port operations."

Port longshoremen from different factions of the union refused to cross the Clerical Unit's picket lines in solidarity with the workers, leaving the normally bustling harbor strangely quiet and idle for a Thursday afternoon.

Unmanned, silent cranes hung in the fog as the few picketers marched back and forth through the mist, raising their signs to the few cars whose drivers honked as they drove by.

ALSO SEE: Union Strike Shuts Down Los Angeles And Long Beach Ports

Clerical workers handle everything from rail documents, gate operations, customer service, customs operations, and most of the paperwork for ships and containers entering and leaving the ports. 

"We keep track of everything, if the port moves, it's because of us," said one member of union 63. 

Sonia Ziegler has worked as a finance clerk for the port for the past 17 years. She assured that her members will not stop picketing until they are ensured the outsourcing of jobs overseas and out of state comes to an end. 

"We just want our jobs," she said. "We are grateful to have them and we want to keep them."

Ziegler has been picketing since Wednesday morning and said about 13 unions representing the shipping industry have come by in support of her union. 

"It takes all of us to keep the ports moving," Ziegler said. "It's a team effort and we want to make sure the jobs stay here."

Ray Familathe, the union's international vice president for the mainland, said in a press release, "I'm proud of the sacrifice that is being made by the men and women of Locals 13, 63 and 94 as they stand in solidarity with OCU and against the outsourcing of the good jobs that this community needs."

Lead Negotiator for the 63 Office Clerical Union John Fageaux said that 400 to 500 of the 800 union members are on strike and in rotation on the picket lines.

The members of union 63 had support and approval from the larger, 50,000-member ILWU, who handle all of the cargo on the west coasts of the U.S., Canada and Hawaii.

The L.A. Times reported that about 10,000 of those dockworkers are employed at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

On Wednesday, the clerical workers ignored an order to return to work, endangering the reliability of the San Pedro Harbor ports, according to international trade economist Jock O'Donell.

Fageaux said that the union has been in contact with the Harbor Employer Assocation and the mayor to resolve the dispute.

"We are asking the employers to get back to the table and agree to terms that would not allow for continued outsourcing of these good jobs that are so important to this community," said Fageaux.

In a statement released Wednesday, Mayor Villaraigosa urged both parties to get "back to the bargaining table to work with a mediator, and to hammer out a settlement before further harm is done to our local economy,"

As of this afternoon, Fageaux said that the employers now may be willing to do so, but it not confirmed.

The employers said accusations of outsourcing are false.

"Not one OCU job has been sent overseas, or anywhere else," the Harbor Employers Association said.

The association added that their employers have offered complete protection against outsourcing.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) said she was backing the port workers.

"I stand in solidarity with the hard-working clerical workers, most of whom are women, of the ILWU Local 63's Office Clerical Unit, who are striking today to prevent their jobs from being sent overseas," Hahn said in a statement. "These workers have been bargaining in good faith for over two years, and I urge a fair resolution that keeps these good-paying jobs" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.


View photos of the strike below:

Reach staff reporter Brianna Sacks here.



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