Hundreds of dockworkers squeezed into the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s hiring hall in Wilmington before dawn Tuesday, their first full day back to work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach since Friday.
They packed tightly into the hall -- where a wall mural displayed the word “Unity” and TV screens showed the jobs available -- and waited for their numbers to be called for a day’s work. About 2,500 were hired.
“If a fire marshal walked in right now, we’d be in a lot of trouble,” one worker said to the dull roar of chatter.
In other words it was a normal Tuesday morning on the docks.
It came after an abnormally quiet holiday weekend when the Pacific Maritime Assn. -- which represents shipping companies -- stopped unloading at 29 West Coast ports amid a months-long labor dispute with the ILWU.
For the record
Feb. 17, 12:16 p.m.: An earlier version of this post referred to the Pacific Maritime Assn. as the Pacfic Management Assn.
While massive container ships waited off the coast and more sat at berth beneath cranes with their cargo stacked high, President Obama dispatched Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to San Francisco to help jump-start the negotiations.
Perez was scheduled to meet with both sides Tuesday in the hopes of brokering a deal, which at this point appears largely stalled over clauses regarding arbitrators who settle disputes on the dock.
Roughly 20,000 dockworkers have been working without a contract since July, but back-to-back weekend port shutdowns have many companies that rely on goods traveling to and from Asia growing increasingly nervous about disruptions should the stalemate continue.
In the neighborhoods around the massive port complex, there’s little doubt what side locals are on in this stalemate.
Blue signs reading “ILWU Strong” dot fences along Harry Bridges Avenue in Wilmington, named for the longtime union president. And many restaurants and stores in San Pedro sport blue signs in their windows reading “We support the ILWU and They Support Us.”
“They keep us going,” said Lisa Finney, a longtime server at the Lighthouse Deli and Cafe on 39th Street in San Pedro, and wife of an ILWU foreman. “There isn’t anyone here who doesn’t support ILWU.”