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SoCal Port Strike Costing $1 Billion Per Day As Union Clerks Turn Down $190,000 Offer

Among the nation’s shrinking union population, the unionized office workers at Southern California’s ports make more than most actors in the Screen Actors Guild. They make more than union construction workers, truck drivers, school teachers, cops, fire fighters, and just about any other unionized profession you can think of (with the possible exception of sports players).

In fact, other than union bosses themselves, it can be easily argued that the office workers at SoCal ports are the union movement’s crème de la crème. As the office workers’ union has, so far, rejected an offer bringing their total compensation to nearly $200,000–they have become the highest paid office workers in the nation and they have a no layoff provision in their contract.

They are the 1% among unionized workers…Which is why their strike—which is costing $1 billion per day—seems all the more ridiculous.

Unionized office workers at California’s Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have been on strike now for over a week and it’s costing the California economy a staggering $1 billion per day as dock workers refuse to cross the office workers’ picket lines and unloaded ships line up, anchored at sea.

Losses mounted Friday for the strike-hobbled local ports, where picketing clerical workers have closed nearly all cargo terminals at the nation’s busiest shipping complex.

The strike by the 800-member clerks union, which began Tuesday, is creating losses estimated at $1 billion a day, including forfeited worker pay, missing revenue for truckers and other businesses and the value of cargo that has been diverted to other ports.

According to the clerk’s union, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), whose contract with the Harbor Employers Association expired in 2010, 800 port office workers are striking over concerns of possible outsourcing of “dozens” of jobs–even though there is no layoff language in the contract.

Clerical workers went on strike today at 12-noon at Pier 400 in the Port of Los Angeles to stop international corporations from outsourcing dozens of good-paying jobs that support working families in the Harbor community.

“We’re drawing the line against corporate greed and outsourcing that’s destroying the good-paying jobs that support working families in our community,” said Trinie Thompson, a Logistics Clerk who works at the Port. “The jobs here come with excellent wages and benefits – but they’ll eventually disappear if companies keep outsourcing them to India and Taiwan.”

In a Sunday press release, however, the employers’ association disputes the union’s assertions:

Last night, in their latest bid to get the ports working again, the harbor employers offered the OCU new proposals containing further concessions in connection with the OCU’s “featherbedding” demands — the requirements that employers call in temporary workers and hire new employees even if there is no work for those individuals to perform. The OCU immediately rejected the proposals.

In addition to their latest concessions on staffing, the employers continue to offer wage and pension increases, an absolute job guarantee against layoffs, and a promise to maintain all other OCU benefits that the employers have previously offered — all of which would bring the average annual OCU wage-and-benefits package to more than $190,000 over the next three and one-half years.

Ex-union organizer and current Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is frustrated at the billions in lost revenues his and other SoCal communities are experiencing:

“This cannot continue,” Villaraigosa said in the terse, three-paragraph communication to John Fageaux Jr., president of the union’s clerical unit, and Stephen L. Berry, chief negotiator for the employers group.

With thousands of members of other ILWU locals now honoring picket lines,” the strike is “costing our local economy billions of dollars. The cost is too great to continue down this failed path,” the mayor said.

As politicians grapple with a sagging economy, and with the SoCal strike costing the California economy billions, President Obama could force an end to the strike by using powers under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act.

Used by both Republican and Democratic presidents in the past, under Taft-Hartley, Obama could enjoin the union from striking and order an 80-day cooling off period to give the parties the opportunities to work out their differences without further destroying the economy.

However, as injecting himself into the SoCal port strike this soon would likely be seen as “union busting,” Obama is likely loathe to do this since he owes so much to union bosses for his re-election.

Regardless how long the ILWU shuts down the SoCal ports, this may just be a precursor of a bigger economy-killing strike to come.

In September, with a September 30th deadline and the November elections looming, dockworkers and shippers along the nation’s East Coast and Gulf Coast pushed their contract out until December 29th.

If an agreement cannot be reached there, the East and Gulf Coast longshoremen may strike, closing down shipping at the nation’s eastern and gulf ports.

While it not expected to last that long, if the SoCal strike isn’t settled by the time the East and Gulf coast contract extension expires and a strike occurs there as well, the nation’s shipping could come to a virtual standstill.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens and whether Obama has the fortitude to use his powers under Taft-Hartley.
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“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

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