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Ports Labor Deal is Rejected, Work Stoppage Feared

The Dec. 4 tentative agreement between harbor employers and the International Longshoremen Workers United Clerical Unit ended an 8-day strike that threatened the national economy.

Clerks at the Long Beach-Los Angeles seaport have rejected a strike-ending tentative labor agreement, posing fear of a repeat that might slow the economy reliant on the country's biggest trade hubs.

When the Dec. 4 tenative agreement was reached—just after the arrival of a federal mediator sent by President Obama—it effectively ended an 8-day strike that crippled goods movement at the harbor shared by the ports of Long Beach and L.A. It drew national concern about destabilizing the economy.

And now, those same worries resurfaced. 

A retail association whose workers depend on shipments through the ports expressed disappointment Friday that the clerical workers shot down a tentative deal with harbor area employers. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit on Wednesday voted to reject the previously made pact, which was announced Dec. 4, shortly after federal mediators arrived to try ending the strike.

The strike by the 450 members of the clerical workers union lasted from Nov. 27 until Dec. 4, and was from their parent union who also would not cross the picket line. That shut down 10 of 14 terminals at the two ports during the height of the holiday shopping season, though most gift products had arrived.

"We are extremely disappointed by this vote and strongly urge the parties to work through their differences without any kind of disruption," said Craig Shearman of the National Retail Federation.

The contract still needed to be ratified to "give retailers and other industries that rely on these ports the predictability they need to make long- term plans and get back to growing their businesses and creating jobs," he said. He said they could not "afford to see another shutdown," as jobs around the country depend on trade at the ports.

"As labor and management work to resolve this situation, uninterrupted operation of the ports should be their top priority," Shearman said.

A representative of the clerical worker's union, which is a member of a larger union representing dock workers, could not immediately be reached.

In December, the clerical union's president, John Fageaux, said the strike was a "community effort that will benefit working families for many years to come."

The Harbor Employer's Association issued a statement Thursday, insisting that all 16 of the union's clerical worker units—rather than just three as was originally reported—voted Wednesday against ratifying the Dec. 4 contract.

The employers' association also assured that the ports "continue to operate normally." Steve Getzug of the employer's association said they have no other comments beyond what is in Thursday's statement.

--Nancy Wride, Nicole Mooradian and City News Service contributed to this report.

John Andrews February 11, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Reminds me of the multipe times the unions went on strike in Janesville, WI .. The Union Boss's would always say.. They have to deal with us. What will they do, move the plant.. Well, The Truck plant is now in Mexico City... I can here these union Boss's without even being there.. What are they going to do, send it to another port?? The Janesville Union Boss's received Fat Pensions.. The worker's did not fair nearly as well. Same will happen here.
enea ostrich February 11, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Wow, that's a stretch of the imagination.
KIngston February 13, 2013 at 08:56 PM
It's behavior like that which will help spur development of the Punta Colonet Mega port project in Baja [MEXICO].

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