Mediator is sought for West Coast port labor impasse

The union has not acknowledged the use of slowdown tactics, but has said management has launched a smear campa

Port terminals and shipping lines operating along the West Coast are asking for a federal mediator to break a seven-month impasse in contract talks with dockworkers.

The Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers, said Monday that outside help is needed because the two sides remain far apart on many issues and that alleged union slowdowns are "creating long-term — even permanent — damage to the West Coast."

The employers said the slowdown has caused West Coast ports, including those in Long Beach and Los Angeles, to lose market share to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.

Steve Getzug, an employer spokesman, said employers told the union Monday they want a federal mediator to help the sides reach a contract, a stance business groups have repeatedly endorsed.

The union would have to consent to using a mediator, Getzug said.

A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said it would respond Tuesday. The union has not acknowledged the use of slowdown tactics, but has said management has launched a smear campaign designed to deflect blame for long-running congestion problems of its own making.

Employers have accused the union of refusing to dispatch skilled workers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for nearly two months, exacerbating brutal congestion there. Similar slowdown tactics have been deployed at ports in Tacoma, Seattle and Oakland, according to employers.

Congestion at West Coast ports has disrupted supply chains this year, delaying the shipment of goods and causing some businesses to lose sales. Even before the slowdown accusations, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports were experiencing the worst bottleneck since 2004.

A six-year contract for nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports expired in July.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement on healthcare in August, but other issues remain unresolved.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

Twitter: @khouriandrew

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