Local Labor Skirmish May Complicate Efforts on West Coast Ports Accord
Posted at 5:22 p.m. on July 7, 2014
Cargo is still moving through the Los Angeles port as negotiations continue with labor unions and non-union truckers hold a separate protest. Shown here in December 2012, though, the cranes were quiet during a clerical workers’ strike.
A labor action by non-union truckers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach could complicate the negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, which represents nearly 20,000 dockworkers at West Coast ports.
The drivers’ labor action started Monday. A group called Justice for Port Truck Drivers called it “a dramatic escalation from prior actions” against trucking firms.
But Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said operations were continuing Monday “with minimal impact” from the port truck drivers’ labor action against three drayage companies.
“There have been a handful of informational protesters at two Port of Los Angeles container terminals, but there has not been a disruption in cargo operations,” the port statement said. “Two cargo container terminals have elected to close their gates for reasons unrelated to the truck driver labor dispute. Ships continue to be worked at those terminals. Los Angeles Port Police continue to monitor activities at Port of Los Angeles container terminals.”
It is not clear if members of the ILWU would honor any picket lines that might be set up by the drivers.
ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said Monday the question of whether to honor picket lines is “a hypothetical that I’m steering clear of for now” and that the ILWU “will deal with this when and if it happens.”
At this point, he said, negotiations between the ports and the ILWU to reach a new contract are “on track and ongoing.”
The West Coast ports labor agreement expired on July 1 but the two sides agreed to keep the talks going for a new contract and to keep cargo moving. They said in a joint statement that “both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies….”
In the truckers’ dispute, the National Labor Relations Board last month charged that one of the drayage firms, Green Fleet Systems, violated labor law in various ways, including by promising its employees increased benefits and improved employment conditions “if they refrained from union organizational activity” and by threatening employees with job loss if they engaged in union activities. A NLRB administrative law judge will conduct a hearing on the complaint next month.