AirTalk for December 4, 2012

Port workers continue strike, shuttering Southern California shipping industry

LA Port Strike

Brian Watt/KPCC

Striking clerical workers at Pier 400 walk the picket lines at the Port of Los Angeles.

Freight ships unable to unload cargo have anchored offshore from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the local 800-member clerical workers unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union continues an eight-day strike. Union leaders claim that management is not protecting future clerical jobs and planning on outsourcing to China and Taiwan.

According to both sides, the primary point of contention is the differences in how to fill temporary and permanent jobs down the road after current employees retire. When 10,000 members of their sister union, which represents dockworkers, refused to cross picket lines last week, 10 of the ports’ 14 terminals quickly shut down. Port clerks have been working without a contract for over two years.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent letters to negotiators for both sides on Monday urging them to bring in a mediator to help resolve the dispute and to stay at the bargaining table around the clock until an agreement is reached. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest and second busiest container ports in the United States.

Is it unacceptable for shipping companies to maximize profits at the expense of American jobs? Is it fair and reasonable for the unions to shut down one of the country’s busiest ports in an effort to gain leverage? How damaging is such a strike to the U.S. economy?

Guests:

Wendy Lee, KPCC business reporter joining us from the Port of Los Angeles

Craig Merrilees, Communications Director, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)

Steve Getzug, spokesman for the Harbor Employers Association


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