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Deal brings end to crippling L.A. ports strike

By John Rogers

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:54 a.m. HST, Dec 05, 2012

LOS ANGELES » Work resumed today at the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors after settlement of a strike that crippled the nation's busiest container port complex for more than a week.

Gates at 10 closed terminals reopened, and dockworkers were ready to resume loading and unloading at least 13 cargo ships that were stuck for days at docks or in the harbors, Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

"We expect to start seeing some significant movement today," he said.

Television reports showed huge cargo vessels moving into port, and a line of trucks waiting to enter a terminal.

Clerical workers who said that shippers were offshoring their jobs struck on Nov. 27 and thousands of dockworkers in the same union refused to cross picket lines, paralyzing much of the ports complex that handles 44 percent of all containerized cargo that arrives by sea nationwide, such as cars from Japan and computers from China.

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement to end the strike late Tuesday, less than two hours after federal mediators arrived from Washington, D.C. No details about the terms of the deal had been released by early today, though a statement from the workers' union said it had won new protections preventing jobs from being outsourced.

Port officials estimated that roughly $760 million worth of cargo a day was failing to move through the ports during the walkout. Some 20 ships diverted to other ports in California and Mexico while others scheduled to reach Southern California simply didn't sail.

It wasn't immediately clear specifically what goods were impacted; holiday items had arrived weeks ago.

Days of negotiations that included all-night bargaining sessions suddenly went from a stalemate to big leaps of progress by Tuesday. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the sides were already prepared to take a vote when the mediators arrived.

"I'm really pleased to tell all of you that my 10,000 longshore workers in the ports of LA and Long Beach are going to start moving cargo on these ships," said Ray Familathe, vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. "We're going to get cargo moved throughout the supply chain and the country and get everybody those that they're looking for in those stores."

At issue during the lengthy negotiations was the union's contention that terminal operators wanted to outsource future clerical jobs out of state and overseas — an allegation the shippers denied.

Shippers said they wanted the flexibility not to fill jobs that were no longer needed as clerks quit or retired. They said they promised the current clerks lifetime employment.

The strike began when 450 members of the ILWU's local clerical workers unit walked off their jobs. The clerks had been working without a contract for more than two years.

The walkout quickly closed 10 of the ports' 14 terminals when some 10,000 dockworkers, members of different unit of the same union, refused to cross picket lines.

Even though the deal was reached soon after their arrival, the federal mediators said they had little to do with the solution.

"In the final analysis, it worked. The parties reached their own agreement," said George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. "There is no question in my mind that collective bargaining is the best example of industrial democracy in action."

During the strike, both sides said salaries, vacation, pensions and other benefits were not a major issue.

The clerks, who make an average base salary of $87,000 a year, have some of the best-paying blue-collar jobs in the nation. When vacation, pension and other benefits are factored in, the employers said, their annual compensation package reached $165,000 a year.

"We know we're blessed," one of the strikers, Trinnie Thompson, said during the walkout. "We're very thankful for our jobs. We just want to keep them."

Union leaders said if future jobs were not kept at the ports, the result would be another section of the U.S. economy taking a serious economic hit so that huge corporations could increase their profit margins by exploiting people in other states and countries who would be forced to work for less.

After the deal was reached, the ports' management said they were "delighted that the terminals will be operating again, that the cargo will be flowing."

The clerks handle such tasks as filing invoices and billing notices, arranging dock visits by customs inspectors, and ensuring that cargo moves off the dock quickly and gets where it's supposed to go.

Villaraigosa, who had been calling for the two sides to reach a deal for days, said he was pleased by the resolution.

"I think it's appropriate to say 'mission accomplished,'" he said.

AP writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.

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AhiPoke wrote:
"The clerks, who make an average base salary of $87,000 a year, have some of the best-paying blue-collar jobs in the nation. When vacation, pension and other benefits are factored in, the employers said, their annual compensation package reached $165,000 a year." This is all due to the Jones Act and doesn't even include overtime. If anyone ever watches one of these clerks work they'd be appalled. The Jones Act is the primary reason why US ports are amongst the most unproductive in the world and costs the citizens of Hawaii hundreds of $M's/year in additional cost for product from out of state. Enuf already!!!
on December 5,2012 | 06:18AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
Thank you
on December 5,2012 | 07:16AM
AmbienDaze wrote:
Jones Act only requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S. flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. It doesn’t say UNION labor have to load and unload the ships.
on December 5,2012 | 08:02AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Not true. The Jones act also covers the loading and unloading of cargo, warehousing and transportation of products.
on December 5,2012 | 09:31AM
serious wrote:
Regardless, I don't think there is any doubt that the Jones Act costs HI a lot of $$$$. Linda's goal was to repeal it for us--- the rest of the Democrats???????? Bunch of loses tied to the Matson and Horizon lines!!!
on December 5,2012 | 01:49PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Wait a minute...if the average annual compensation package of a clerk before overtime is $165,000 just what the heck is the compensation package for a senior union worker that has a high paying position?


Marine biologists earn an average starting salary of $39,000ish, with a high-end of around $57,000 - with 6-9 years of field experience and an advanced degree.

The governor of Maine gets paid $70,000, Arkansas $80,800 and Tennessee $85,000.

Paralegals average salary is $30,700, federal court judges earn $145,100 to 159,030, the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice earns $217,400, while Supreme Court Associate Justices make $208,100.

Hospital administrators salary averages are from $67,000 to $143,000 annually, according to industry sources.

on December 5,2012 | 08:47AM
LadyNinja wrote:
$87k per year? That is more than enough to sustain one living here in Honolulu. As for the mainland, I figure a lot less. These workers are well paid and they are grumbling? Some families make do with way less than what they are paid.
on December 5,2012 | 08:21AM
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