Workers protesting what they see as efforts by shipping companies to oursource clerical jobs went on strike today at the Port of Long Beach.
The striking workers coordinate the movement of goods and billing between shipping companies and large retailers like Target and Walmart.
The strike forced shipping companies to close three of the Port of Los Angeles' eight terminals, port media relations manager Rachel Campbell confirmed. Campbell said only about 25 of the union workers were actually picketing. Several hundred longshoremen were on standby, but refused to cross the picket line. Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union communications director Craig Merrilees said shipping companies are moving jobs to centers in Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City.
``The companies are saying, we can pay people a whole lot less if we make these jobs non-union and send them where people are desperate,'' Merrilees said.
Merrilees said workers struck at four port terminals run by Yusen Terminals Incorporated and Ports of America. A spokesman for the shipping companies accused the union of abandoning 20 months of contract talks that would have guaranteed workers job security, pay and generous benefits.
"The union has refused to address the needs of the employers,'' said Stephen Berry, the lead negotiator for the two companies.
"Instead they are pressing demands that would weaken competitiveness at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports while rewarding and sustaining absenteeism and inefficiency.''
Berry said the union workers are the highest paid clerical workers in the nation, receiving an average annual compensation package worth $165,000. The union said its workers are paid well for organizing the flow of goods through the ports, which combined account for about 40 percent of all U.S. imports, and the strike was not about wages. ``We're sick and tired of seeing these wealthy companies outsource good jobs that our communities desperately need now,'' ILWU Local 63 President John Fageaux said.
"We're taking this action to help our communities stand up against the corporate greed that's been wrecking America.'' ILWU workers and representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association were scheduled to hold talks at 5 p.m. today but there was no word on how the negotiations turned out.