Drawing for ILWU LA and Long Beach port jobs ordered to restart after abrupt suspension

Drawing for LA and Long Beach port jobs ordered to restart after abrupt suspension
Dock workers enter the hall to get their jobs for the day. On Monday, those who submitted cards for the lottery were supposed to learn if their names had been drawn to join the casuals, but Monday’s lottery was halted. Brittany Murray — Staff Photographer
By Rachel Uranga, Long Beach Press Telegram
A drawing for coveted part-time dockworker jobs at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports was abruptly suspended Monday after union officials suddenly pulled out of the process, but an arbitrator ordered the drawing to restart today.

An arbitrator intervened in the dispute after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to participate in the process negotiated with its employer, the Pacific Maritime Association, said Wade Gates, a spokesperson for the PMA who released information about the ruling.

Officials from the ILWU representing local port workers were not available for comment.

Tens of thousands of hopefuls submitted their names for the drawing, which will guarantee winners a freelance job as a “casual” longshore worker and the possibility of becoming a full-time union member raking in more than $100,000 a year.

Bobby Olvera Jr., president of ILWU Local 13, said in a Monday text that the local, which represents 7,000 dockworkers, decided to withdraw from the lottery Monday after its membership “voted unanimously on Thursday night to pause the process until issues were addressed and resolved.”

Although he declined to specify what those issues were, he said they were serious and “presented by the union and summarily rejected by the PMA.”

“PMA and InterOptimis screwed up the process and violated the joint agreement,” he texted, referring to the Moorpark-based company handling the drawing of names.

InterOptimis on Monday referred calls to the union. In a prepared statement, Gates called the union’s choice unfortunate.

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Union officials had expressed earlier concerns about problems with the lottery for the nation’s most sought-after blue-collar jobs.

Local 13 Vice President Mondo Porras said last week he had received complaints that some of the submissions were returned from the post office. Then on Friday, the ILWU posted a plea to their membership to report any problems with so-called interest cards.

“It has come to the officers’ attention that many interest and replacement cards were returned to the senders by the U.S. post office in error,” the post said.

Union members and officials were issued those cards to pass on to relatives or friends who wanted to submit their name to the lottery. Interest cards help secure hopefuls a more favorable spot in the drawing.

For its part, the PMA said it wants to move forward with the lottery to help avoid a labor shortage at the docks.

“We are ready to move forward with the thousands of new hires needed to help keep cargo flowing through the Southern California ports,” Gates noted in the statement. “We look forward to working with the ILWU to begin the drawing soon to meet the labor needs of the West Coast waterfront.”

The spat between the union and PMA is not unusual, as the two have a long history of tense relations. In 2012, 2014 and 2015, labor strife hobbled trade at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The scheduled drawing this week will be the first time in more than a decade that port jobs have become available to outsiders. The high-stakes drawing drew at least 80,000 applicants, according to the PMA.