L.A. Port Workers Reach Agreement to End Eight-Day Strike

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Los Angeles Port Strike Steals Christmas for Idled Truck Drivers
Pier 400 at the Port of Los Angeles, foreground, sits idle as container ships and oil tankers are forced to anchor offshore until a labor strike by the 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 is settled. Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

Clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest U.S. port complex, agreed to end an eight-day strike that affected about $1 billion of trade a day.

Workers and management reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, according to a statement late yesterday on the website of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union. The deal came after talks were held with federal mediators. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

Port employees went back to work within minutes of the agreement, according to Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the Los Angeles facility. The number of ships anchored outside the two ports fell to five from 13 and all berths were occupied. Other ships that had been diverted were returning.

“It’s a matter of days, not weeks, before we get back to normal,” Sanfield said.

The two ports, which together handle about a third of U.S. container imports, shuttered 10 of 14 cargo-box terminals, stranding shipments of toys, furniture and clothes in the run-up to the holiday period.

“We must waste no time in getting the nation’s busiest port complex’s operations back up to speed,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement.

The clerical employees, paid $41 an hour, walked out on Nov. 27 after working without a contract for 30 months. The dispute mainly focused on long-term job security rather than pay. The union wanted assurances that work wouldn’t be moved overseas. The terminal operators were seeking great flexibility in hiring so that positions were only filled if needed, according to a Dec. 1 statement.

Outsourcing Fears

“Our campaign was always focused on securing good jobs and stopping the outsourcing that threatened working families in our harbor communities,” ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe said in the union’s statement.

“We got some of the flexibility we were looking for,” Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the employers, said in a telephone interview.

The shutdown left 15 ships sitting at piers waiting to be unloaded earlier this week and others at anchor offshore, according to Richard McKenna, executive director of the San Pedro-based Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors harbor traffic. Another 18 had been diverted to other ports, mostly to Oakland, California, and to Mexico, he said.

Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said people had been remarking to him how light highway traffic was around the ports during the strike. Now, with trucks returning to pick up and drop off cargo, “those days are gone,” he said.

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