Sunday, 18 January 2015 00:00

Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute

Written by Andrew Khouri | Los Angeles Times
Roughly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract since July. And talks have grown increasingly acrimonious since November. Roughly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract since July. And talks have grown increasingly acrimonious since November. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

West Coast dockworkers and their shipping line employers have agreed to federal mediation to help resolve a contract dispute that has been partly blamed for severe congestion at ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The request for federal help, from both workers and employers, represents a major shift from the increasingly heated nature of contract talks, which have dragged on for eight months. They have repeatedly accused each other of causing brutal congestion at West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle roughly 40% of U.S. imports.

The persistent bottlenecks have wreaked havoc on supply chains across the country, delaying the shipment of goods and causing some businesses to lose sales.

"This is the first positive news from the West Coast ports in some time," Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said it assigned a mediator to the case and that negotiations "will continue as soon as possible." Spokesmen for both the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers declined to comment.

Employers have asked for federal mediation since late December; the union agreed to a mediator this week.

The joint request makes it more likely a final agreement will be reached sooner than if the status quo persisted, said Harley Shaiken, a professor and labor expert at UC Berkeley.

"If you are talking versus denouncing each other in a public forum, that means you are looking for ways to settle," he said.

The Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers operating shipping lines and terminals, says work rules, wages and whether certain jobs are done by the union or others remain unresolved. A tentative agreement on healthcare was reached in August.

Mediation has been used before in port disputes. Federal mediators helped East and Gulf Coast dockworkers reach a six-year deal in 2013. And during 2002 negotiations — when a 10-day lockout on the West Coast rippled through the U.S. economy — mediation helped lead to a final agreement.

"It's a promising development, but by no means is it a slam dunk that we'll see a swift resolution of this contract dispute," international trade economist Jock O'Connell said.

That's because a mediator can only prod both sides to talk and recommend ways to resolve the dispute. The mediator cannot impose any binding resolutions.

Roughly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract since July. And talks have grown increasingly acrimonious since November.

Employers accuse the union of deliberately slowing operations in Los Angeles and Long Beach to gain leverage during negotiations, exacerbating a congestion crisis at the nation's busiest complex. The president of the local union has denied those accusations.

Slowdown tactics, according to employers, have also been used at Tacoma, Wash., Seattle and Oakland.

The union, in response, says crushing West Coast congestion is the result of employer-induced supply chain snafus, including a shortage of trailers that truckers use to haul goods from the ports and the rise of massive container ships that have overwhelmed the docks.

Before the slowdown accusations surfaced, L.A. and Long Beach were already experiencing the worst congestion in a decade.

On Tuesday, there were eight container ships anchored off the coast of Los Angeles, waiting for the docks to clear, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

"We are hopeful that the involvement of a federal mediator is the missing piece needed to get [a contract] signed," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a joint statement.

Link to original article from The LA Times

Read 9535 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 January 2015 17:54

Latest News

  • Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. +

    Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. A seismic political battle that could send shockwaves all the way to the White House was launched last week in Read More
  • Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? +

    Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? In an interview with Reuters conducted a month after he took office, Donald Trump asserted that the U.S. had “fallen Read More
  • Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy +

    Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the sweeping criminal charging policy of former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and directed Read More
  • Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump +

    Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump The CODEPINK Tribunal taking place December 1 and 2, and live streamed by The Real News, is a historic collection of testimonies about the lies Read More
  • The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election +

    The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election Donald Trump was right: the system is rigged! But it is rigged for the Republicans, not the Democrats, for conservatives, Read More
  • 1

Jobs for All Videos



Featured Jobs for All News

  • The Era of Outsourcing is Over +

    The Era of Outsourcing is Over During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana Read More
  • A Subsidized Jobs Program for the 21st Century +

    A Subsidized Jobs Program for the 21st Century Unlocking Labor-Market Opportunities for All Who Seek Work Read More
  • Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute +

    Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute West Coast dockworkers and their shipping line employers have agreed to federal mediation to help resolve a contract dispute that Read More
  • The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs +

    The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs Dean Baker, everyone’s favorite progressive economist (mine, too), has an interesting take on our unemployment problem. Give more paid vacations. Read More
  • Full employment: The recovery’s missing ingredient +

    Full employment: The recovery’s missing ingredient Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen gave a speech a few weeks ago that was doubly unusual. Read More
  • Young people's voice needed in building an infrastructure of opportunity +

    Young people's voice needed in building an infrastructure of opportunity This week the Durham, North Carolina-based nonprofit MDC released its latest State of the South report highlighting how the American Read More
  • The Full Employment Act at 35: America's Unfinished Business +

    The Full Employment Act at 35: America's Unfinished Business For the first time since the start of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate is below 6 percent. America has Read More
  • The Need for Jobs and Economic Equality +

    The Need for Jobs and Economic Equality Wealth and resources are not infinite; they are finite! Therefore, if some have too much, many others are left with Read More
  • Conyers & Congressional Advocates Announce Creation of Full Employment Caucus +

    Conyers & Congressional Advocates Announce Creation of Full Employment Caucus Today, in response to the ongoing jobs crisis in America, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Charles Rangel Read More
  • 1
  • 2