Crippling LA Ports Strike Ends, Cost U.S. $1 Billion A Day

LA Port Union strike agreement

By John Rogers

LOS ANGELES -- Clerical workers and longshoremen at the nation's largest port complex will return to work Wednesday, eight days after they walked out in a crippling strike that prevented shippers from delivering billions of dollars in cargo across the country.

"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."

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 were released, though a statement from the workers' union said it had won new protections preventing jobs from being outsourced.

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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 already were prepared to take a vote when the mediators arrived.

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 that the shippers denied.

Shippers said that 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 Nov. 27, when 450 members of the union'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 the clerks' sister 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."

More: LA Port Union Strikers: We Want Job Security

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.

Combined, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle about 44 percent of all cargo that arrives in the U.S. by sea. About $1 billion a day in merchandise, including cars from Japan and computers from China, flow past its docks.

Shuttering 10 of the ports' 14 terminals kept about $760 million a day in cargo from being delivered, according to port officials. The cargo stacked up on the docks and in adjacent rail yards or, in many cases, remained on arriving ships. Some of those ships were diverted to other ports along the West Coast.

After the deal was reached, the ports' management said that 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. The $1 billion a day in cargo that moves through the busy port terminals is loaded on trucks and trains that take it to warehouses and distribution centers across the country.

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

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

Top News Headlines: L.A. Port Strike Ends

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The loss of money can be and should be blamed on management. They caused this issue and had every chance to correct their mistakes. Good for the Unions. America needs more strong Unions.

December 07 2012 at 4:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I see management and morons (mental development of an 8 to 12 year old) attacking another group of American union workers. The Constitution of the United States is also being attacked by these anti Americans because it clearly states freedom of assembly and protest, right to work, labor rights, and right to trade union membership. Another attempt to misdirect and spread misinformation. Level of education..don't care if you got 10 years of college , your not more important than someone with no college.. get off your high horse. Cost of living in different parts of US. $87,000 with benefits of $165,000 in Cal. would be equal to about $ 40,000 with benefits of $80,000 across the nation in the state of Ga. A small house in Cal. cost $450,000 and in Ga. that same size house cost $60,000. Now Google each company these hard working Americans are striking against and check out all the law suits pertaining to wages and salaries. Love your Twinkie? Google the company. Shop at Wal-mart ? Google it and see what the courts have payed out to these hard working Americans you call bastards. Seems lot of these companies don't abide by the law of the land. They think they can work someone 30 hrs and only pay them for 20 hrs.So these workers call and join a union to get equal pay for equal work (just like it states in the Constitution) or to seek justice in the court system. Sad thing here is I know everyone of you twisting that knife in the backs of these workers would take their jobs if they could.

December 07 2012 at 1:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pharmacists go to college for 6 years and get maybe $100,000 a year. The union bastards drive around in little forklifts and make $165,000 a year. I hate freaking unions !

December 06 2012 at 9:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

What this particular union wanted was just to keep jobs in the U.S., not any pay increase or anything that would make things more difficult for their employers. I don't understand the negative comments about what this union stood for unless the people here actually like outsourcing jobs.

December 06 2012 at 8:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Union, proud to cripple the economy

December 06 2012 at 6:55 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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." add on the one billion they cost the US and each worker made over a million dollars, Cushy jobs indeed! Unions cost the US $500 Billion a year annd raise all prices for everybody as well as unemployment. Demming management method YES, UNIONS NO!

December 06 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am glad the workers got what they deserved and stood for.

December 06 2012 at 4:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Unions are the New Age Mafia. Piss on Unions..................

December 06 2012 at 4:44 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cmconslt's comment

I see you fly the American flag, so your an American right? You say unions are the new age mafia and piss on unions. Well the Constitution of the United States has been around for awhile now. And if you read up on your history, you will see it was not written for or by the mafia. It's clear you don't have a framed copy of this important document in your house, but if you will take the time to Google it, you will read about such things as freedom of assembly and protest. Labor rights, right to work, and ready for it.....RIGHT TO TRADE UNION MEMBERSHIP! So you can see why when i read your post all I see is piss on America and its laws put in place to protect all Americans.

December 06 2012 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wished people would get it right, especially if they are going to use it in a headline. LA is the state abbreviation for Louisiana. If you are talking about Los Angeles, the abbreviation is L.A. Merry Christmas.

December 06 2012 at 4:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to banddeducational's comment

PROOF READING seems to be a lost art !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 06 2012 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now they know that some Temp Agency can't bring people in to do these peoples jobs for less money..At least their jobs can't be outsourced to China or India...If that happened they would pack it up and unload it in the same spot LOL

December 06 2012 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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