Labor War Growing On West Coast Docks As PMA Locks Out ILWU Local 13 Night Workers

Labor War Growing On West Coast Docks As PMA Locks Out ILWU Local 13 Night Workers
By Andrew Edwards, Press-Telegram

ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. speaks to hundreds of longshoremen gathered for work at the ILWU dispatch hall in Wilmington, CA on Friday, January 2, 2015. Contract negotiations have stalled between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)
WILMINGTON >> Goodbye Christmas cheer. Hello labor strife.

The prolonged labor negotiations between port operators and dockworkers became significantly more acrimonious Friday when both sides made accusations of bad-faith labor tactics, which no doubt will compound congestion already crippling the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Although neither side came out and said they were on the verge of declaring a strike or a lockout, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach reacted quickly to the news by sending out a joint statement asking the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association, the latter of which represents port managers in labor talks, to avoid escalating the conflict.

“Negotiations resume Monday and it’s in no one’s interest for either side to take further actions before then,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in the statement.

“The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach play a critical role in our regional and national economy, and so those at the table bear a responsibility that extends far beyond the waterfront. The prudent course of action is to keep people working and keep goods moving as negotiations continue,” the statement continued.

A work stoppage would be bad news for the economy. In November, the National Retail Federation, National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated a work stoppage could drain $2 billion a day from the economy.

Longshore workers and West Coast port operators have been working without a contract since July. Although the two sides reached a tentative deal on health benefits in August, negotiations have stalled with the PMA becoming increasingly critical of union leaders since autumn. Port leaders ​​and trade groups asked Washington to mediate stalemated labor talks, affecting more than 20,000 West Coast workers, shortly before Christmas.