Is another strike looming for the ports of L.A. and Long Beach?

Bargaining units for a clerical workers’ union rejected a tentative labor agreement this week that that ended an eight-day strike that shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach late last year.

The tentative contract, announced Dec. 4, intially appeared to be headed toward ratification, but on Wednesday night, voting members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit rejected the tentative contract.

The accord was the culmination of tense negotiations between the clerical workers’ union and the Harbor Employers Assn., which represents shipping companies at the ports.


The standoff, which ended shortly before federal mediators were set to intervene, brought the nation’s busiest seaport complex to a standstill.

Ten of 14 cargo container terminals were shut down as 10,000 regional members of the ILWU honored the picket line and refused to work.

The 800-member clerical workers’ union, which went on strike Nov. 27, voiced frustration about shipping line employers outsourcing jobs, an accusation shipping lines had denied.

Phone calls seeking comment from union officials was not immediately returned Friday.

With the tentative agreement rejected, clerical employees will be working under the terms of their expired contract.

“It’s not clear today what will happen next,” said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Harbor Employers Assn.
In the meantime, operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were continuing as usual.

Wednesday’s vote once again creates uncertainty for shipping terminal operators and retailers who were affected by the strike.

“We are extremely disappointed by this vote and strongly urge the parties to work through their differences without any kind of disruption,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation. “Ratification of a contract is needed to give retailers and other industries that rely on these ports the predictability they need to make long-term plans and get back to growing their businesses and creating jobs.”


U.S. trade picture brightened at end of 2012

Retail sales rise 5.8% but cold weather and payroll taxes sting

U.S. Postal Service loses $1.3 billion during last 3 months of 2012