Longshore Union Expands Job Actions in Southern California

Contact: Steve Getzug (310) 633-9444
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Longshore Union Expands Job Actions in Southern California;
Productivity Falls 20-30 Percent at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Actions Jeopardize an Already Fragile U.S. Economy

SAN FRANCISCO (July 16, 2008) – International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members in Southern California have expanded disruptive job actions at terminals at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, leading to widening productivity losses, the Pacific Maritime Association announced today.

Overall, productivity at the port complex was down 20 to 30 percent during the day shift on Tuesday, according to the PMA, who whose 71 member companies include cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores on the West Coast.

First detected during the day shift on Tuesday, the new work actions are occurring on top of coordinated mid-shift unit breaks that began Friday and continue to hamper operations at the nation’s busiest ports. Essentially a series of small steps – such as tractor drivers operating their vehicles more slowly than normal, or brief delays being made during routine actions such as placing containers on trucks – the cumulative impact of these actions is to slow operations incrementally, but significantly. As time goes on, the impacts threaten to become even greater. These concerted job actions are occurring while the ILWU and PMA attempt to negotiate a new labor contract.

Because the previous waterfront contract expired July 1 and the union refused to extend it as current negotiations continue, there are currently no means to arbitrate these matters or enforce against disruptive tactics, including coordinated work slowdowns.

ILWU-sanctioned work slowdowns are an often-used tactic by the union to attempt to exert leverage in contract talks. The slowdown tactics employed by the ILWU in 2002 resulted in a halting of port operations on the entire West Coast, prompting federal intervention that resulted in the re-opening of the ports.

Keeping the ports open, productive and secure are critical to the American economy, especially during a time of economic downturn and uncertainty. The West Coast ports generate almost $1.3 trillion in domestic business impacts – representing 11 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product – and support more than 8 million direct and indirect U.S. jobs. The ILWU’s actions jeopardize an already fragile economy that can ill afford another hit.

Already, the West Coast longshoremen are among the highest-paid blue-collar workers in America. Average full-time wages for fully registered workers exceed $136,000. ILWU members also enjoy employer-paid HMO and PPO coverage, with no premiums or deductibles and 100 percent coverage for standard medical benefits. Based on a tentative agreement, those fully-paid benefits would continue.

PMA and its member companies remain focused on reaching a labor agreement that is fair and reasonable to both sides and keeping the West Coast ports running smoothly as negotiations proceed. We look forward to a return to normal work-practice and a resumption of workplace processes consistent with the way the terminals run on a normal basis – and the way the labor contract and arbitrators have dictated that they be run.

The contract negotiated and administered by PMA covers wages, benefits and conditions of employment for the more than 26,000 ILWU members and identified casuals working at 29 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington.

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