Union says APM Terminals spied on L.A.-Long Beach port workers

A California dockworkers union lodged an accusation for the second time in three months against APM Terminals for eavesdropping on workers to gain an edge in contract negotiations.

The clerical workers' unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local No. 63 last week rejected contracts that were reached in December to end a strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the new complaint is another sign that tension between the union and management persists.

In its original complaint filed Nov. 14, the Long Beach-based ILWU accused APM of conducting "secret surveillance, eavesdropping and snooping" on workers during the weeks leading up to an eight-day strike that shut down most of the cargo terminals at the busiest seaport complex in the country.

That allegation was contained in a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, but the union didn't cooperate with NLRB investigators, and then missed a Jan. 24 deadline to appeal an agency decision to dismiss the case.

But on that same day, the ILWU local filed a second complaint that lays out its accusations in more detail, specifically describing how APM used a feature of the company's phone system to listen in on calls between union workers.

The new complaint states management activated "an 'Observe' feature of its in-house telephone system, 'Symposium,' whereby it could secretly electronically eavesdrop on confidential telephone conversations of bargaining unit employees discussing amongst themselves … topics related to ongoing contract negotiations and bargaining strategy."

NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said the newer case is under investigation.

John Crowley, APM's vice president for law and regulatory affairs, said Monday that the company would have no comment while the allegation is being looked into. After the first complaint was filed, Crowley said the company had placed an employee on administrative leave while it conducted its own internal review.

The union declined comment through its lawyer, Ralph Phillips.

business@latimes.com

Shapiro writes for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.

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