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Port Strike Enters Week 2 as Container Ships Back Up

Visible for miles on the horizon, the cargo vessels can't unload as shippers and the union continue labor talks over clerical workers' contract. Obama intervention sought.

A strike that has hobbled operations at the nation's biggest port complex entered its seventh day Monday amid calls on President Barack Obama to intervene to protect the U.S. economy.

More contacts were made Sunday between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on one side and shipping lines and terminal operators on the other, but they were not face-to-face and there were no breakthroughs announced.

The strike was launched Tuesday by the 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, which had been working without a contract since June 30, 2010.

With some 10,000 ILWU members honoring the strikers' picket lines, the action has shut down 10 of the 14 cargo container terminals at the complex, and thousands of workers are sitting idle as container ships back up along the Southern California coast.

"A prolonged strike at the nation's largest ports would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy," according to a letter from NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay to Obama dated Nov. 29. "We call upon you to use all means necessary to get the two sides back to the negotiating table."

The NRF, which describes itself as the world's largest retail trade association, said a 10-day lockout at West coast ports in 2002 led to significant supply chain disruptions, which took six months to remedy and cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day.

"An extended strike" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach "this time could have a greater impact considering the fragile state of the U.S. economy," the letter stated. "The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over the weekend also called for round-the-clock bargaining -- through a mediator -- to end the strike. (see attached pdf).

Despite of talks between the two adversaries, there have been periods without hard negotiations, according to the mayor. "This cannot continue," Villaraigosa said in a message to John Fageaux Jr., president of the union's clerical unit, and Stephen L. Berry, chief negotiator for the employers group, complaining that the strike is "costing our local economy billions of dollars. The cost is too great to continue down this failed path."

Read more background on the strike here.

Always Right December 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I hope they never settle!!! Fire them all!!! Break the back of these union thugs. I'm hoping for a complete melt down of this economy. A depression would be fantastic.
Susan Fageaux December 04, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Are you the Anti-Christ?? Or are you from another planet?? So you encourage a depression?? Why?
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 04, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Breaking the union would break the chokehold of union power which is throttling this state's economic recovery. If Obama intervenes, that's a win, because he will further alienate one of his bases. If Obama caves in, then it's a win because he will further alienate the rest of the country from his obstructive policies. Either way, union power is showing its true colors, and all of them run contrary to the best interests of the country.
John Doe December 04, 2012 at 04:05 PM
A union deserves the right to be heard as a group by the company(s) they serve, but shouldn't be able to put so many other people out of work at the same time, who depend on a weekly paycheck to support their families. Can't these people see that making over $100,000 a year, and gauranteed work for life isn't that bad? Especially at Christmas time, how heartless and greedy. Put you self in most other people's shoes who essentially work check to check to make ends meet, I'll bet they would be elated with your positions!
Always Right December 04, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Possibly, no, yes, I want to open a chain of soup kitchens.
Always Right December 04, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Amen!!!!!
Always Right December 04, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Here we go again, comment pending approval. What a joke!!!!
CDC December 04, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The Port is far richer than the City. If the port of Long Beach was a city, it would be one of the richest in the country. The big winners here are the smart companies that did not outsource. PEOPLE in this country NEED to wake-up. If a war happens in the pacific rim we are helpless thanks to all the greedy companies that have outsourced our jobs and the country's manufacturing base/security. No jobs here = no tax base = no city services. Perfect example of this - New Port of Long Beach construction expansion on time thanks to all of the ship docking fees based on outsourced products. The flip side is the City of Long Beach Marina Dept mess. The city marine dept. dock upgrades are dead in the water, 5 months behind, and totally out of money. http://www.thelognewspaper.com/Local/Article/Slip-Fee-Increase-Approved-for-Long-Beach-Boaters
CDC December 04, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Yeah "fire them all" So they(the 2% thugs) can finish outsourcing the last jobs here in this country. What is TOTALLY ironic are these good paying jobs are based on outsourcing, yet people like YOU want to kill them. I got news for you. The Port of Long Beach is a self governing body that is super rich. Richer than most cities in this country. They can easily afford to pay the workers more if the needed to. But wait, the workers don't want more money, just job security from outsourcing. Next time read the full story.
Always Right December 04, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Keep drinking the koolaid CDC. Lol. Job security, yeah that's it. Lol
Tom Wheeler December 05, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I'm a little confused. Doesn't this sort of action (high-wage earners walking off the job during crucial times) create more of a desire to outsource ? Why would American manufacturers want to deal with that ?
Raymond Duke December 05, 2012 at 06:05 AM
I admit that unions are not perfect, but "throttling this state's economic recovery?" That's being a little over dramatic, don't you think? Additionally, saying that "union's true colors are contrary to the best interests of the country" is a ludicrous generalization said by people who subscribe to some end-all-be-all-ideology for issues, instead of handling each issue independently. It's lazy.
RPVresident December 06, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Tom - Why do we need to have these massive ports in the first place? Why not redistribute jobs throughout the United States by manufacturing in the US and opening distribution centers within the US to deliver these goods to areas within the united states? Then if there is more left over let's EXPORT the goods to other countries. Wouldn't it be a novel idea if all those cargos where FILLED on the way BACK to China?

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