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Union strike at Port of Los Angeles enters third day

Striking clerical workers at Pier 400 walk the picket lines Thursday at the Port of Los Angeles.
Striking clerical workers at Pier 400 walk the picket lines Thursday at the Port of Los Angeles.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Most of the terminals at the Port of Los Angeles are shut down this week after clerical workers went on strike, and other workers refused to cross picket lines. The port is the nation's busiest combined cargo complex, and officials say it's the biggest work stoppage in nearly ten years. KPCC's Brian Watt reports.

UPDATE 9:01 a.m.: By Thursday morning, at least 18 ships docked at the Port of Los Angeles and inside the adjacent harbors were not being serviced, port spokesmen said.

"Basically, we're not moving cargo in and out here," Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

No new contract talks were scheduled for Thursday.

PREVIOUSLY: A handful of clerical workers continued to walk the picket lines Thursday morning, the third day of a strike that shut down the largest terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

Nearby were a couple dozen longshoremen who honored the strike by refusing to cross the picket lines. Idle cranes loomed in the background.

Port spokesmen say seven of eight Los Angeles terminals and three of six at the Port of Long Beach are closed. In L.A., 14 ships in dock and in the harbor are not being serviced.

On Wednesday, the workers ignored an arbitrator’s order to return to work and raised the possibility of a larger job action that could paralyze the nation’s busiest port complex. The strike has already spread to six other terminals and is affecting the Port of Long Beach.

About 70 clerical workers struck the APM Terminals operations on Pier 400 Tuesday, raising the ante in a 2½-year-old contract battle over union claims that management has been outsourcing well-paid jobs out of state and overseas. Harbor Employers Association maintains the outsourcing charges are not true.

The strikers are from the Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 63. Their contracts with 14 companies who operate most of the terminals at the twin ports expired in June 2010.

An arbitrator ruled Tuesday night that the union was negotiating in bad faith with shippers and the strike was invalid. However, the order was ignored pending a planned meeting between the union and shippers. A second arbitrator also was expected to rule this week on whether to uphold that order.

Other areas of the port continue to operate normally. The port is not operating at its peak because shipment of holiday goods ended several weeks ago.

Los Angeles and Long Beach together have the nation’s busiest port complex. The twin harbors handled $273 billion worth of cargo last year.