After tense negotiations and a drawn out approval process, clerical workers at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles voted on Wednesday night to accept the terms of a new contract with their 14 employers.
“The approved agreements, to be finalized in coming days, are good for workers, good for employers and, most of all, important in ensuring smooth operations at our Southern California ports,” said a joint statement released by the Stephen Berry, the lead negotiator for the employers under Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association and John Fageaux Jr., president of the Office Clerical Unit under the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The agreement brings relief to businesses that rely on the ports.
Last year, the Office Clerical Unit, which represents about 600 clerical workers, staged a weeklong strike, which triggered the shutdown of 10 out of 14 terminals at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. Thousands of longshore workers refused to cross the picket lines and shipments were delayed, hurting industries like retail and trucking. Workers said they were on strike because they feared their jobs were being sent overseas.
The strike was brought to an end after the Office Clerical Unit and the Harbor Employers Association reached a tentative agreement in December. That tentative agreement required a majority vote approval from the union’s 600 members.
Earlier this month, the clerical workers failed to ratify the contract, but had a change of heart last night. The Harbor Employers Association said the terms of the approved agreement remained the same as what was discussed in December.
Fageaux disagreed, saying that there were changes made to the original tentative agreement after concerns were raised by clerical workers at three employers. He said employers agreed to language that guarantees any job functions that clerical workers did under the last contract would be preserved under the new contract.
"There weren't major changes, but it was enough to make both sides realize that we need to get this thing behind us and move on and get back to business as usual," Fageaux said.
Union members told KPCC news in December the agreement included language that would prevent their jobs from being sent overseas. The workers would also receive a wage and benefits package of about $185,000 to $190,000 a year, up from the previous $165,000, the Harbor Employers Association said in December.
But there were also union concessions. The employer wanted more flexibility with its staffing. Under the tentative agreement, 51 open positions will be gone and as clerical workers retire, 14 of those jobs will go unfilled, union negotiator Trinie Thompson told KPCC in December.