ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Striking workers carry placards December 4, 2012 at the Port of Los Angeles in southern California. The strike by clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle more than 40 percent of ocean-shipped US imports from Asia, cost the local and wider US economy billions.
An eight-day strike that shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach ended late Tuesday. Union leaders and management reached agreement before the arrival of federal mediators, who had been called in by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The agreement is said to protect most clerical jobs from being outsourced over the next four years, according to union spokesman Craig Merrilees.
Protecting jobs for future generations was the strikers’ primary objective; they claim that their employers were replacing retirees with non-union employees, or eliminating those jobs altogether. Harbor employers were seeking to cut costs through attrition, saying some positions were becoming redundant or obsolete due to technology and retaining them would put L.A.’s ports at an economic disadvantage. The two sides compromised on the elimination of 14 jobs over the next 3-1/2 years. The deal will not be final until it is ratified by the full union membership.
Port clerks from International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit walked off the job on November 27 after working without a contract since 2010, but are now back to work. The LA and Long Beach ports are the two largest in the nation and together account for 40 percent of the value of all U.S. imports.
Is it unacceptable for shipping companies to maximize profits at the expense of American jobs? Should management be required to preserve jobs for the future, at greater cost to the company? Is it fair and reasonable for the unions to shut down two of the country’s busiest ports in an effort to gain leverage?
Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles City Councilman for the 15th District, which includes San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and Watts
Chris Thornberg, Principal, Beacon Economics