The Port of Los Angeles is home to the biggest and busiest cargo terminal in the Americas, and striking workers shut it down Tuesday.
The terminal, which ships cars, furniture, clothing, animal feed and much more to and from China and countries around the world, remained closed Wednesday morning. About 67 clerical workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63’s Office Clerical Unit (OCU) set up a picket line outside the APM Terminal known as Pier 400 Tuesday. The longshoremen working at the pier are honoring the workers’ strike and not working.
The union says its main grievance is the outsourcing of harbor jobs. “We’ve been meeting with the companies for more than two years, but they’re still concealing their outsourcing – even when they’ve been caught red-handed,” 63-OCU President John Fageaux said in a statement.
“This outsourcing isn’t being done by little mom-and-pop operations; these are powerful multi-national corporations who aren’t respecting the local communities,” ILWU International Vice-President Ray Familathe said in the statement. “These guys can outsource a good-paying job to Taipei with the push of a button, and seem to care less how it impacts a family living in the Harbor area,” he added.
In response, the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Assn., which represents ocean shipping lines and terminal operators, said in a statement saying that employers have “offered complete protection against outsourcing.” It also accuses the union of trying to promote “featherbedding” — the practice of requiring employers to hire employees even when there is no work to perform.
The union says that over 51 permanent positions have been lost to outsourcing in recent years — a claim that the Harbor Employers refutes. According to the Harbor Employers, those 51 individuals either “retired with full benefits, quit, or passed away during the past three years.”
It is unclear when the strike will end but the Port of LA is urging both sides to come to an agreement promptly for the sake of international commerce.
But the union says the workers are standing up to some of the world’s largest shipping lines to protect the future of American jobs in the industry. “We just reached the point where somebody had to stand-up and draw the line against outsourcing, because these companies will eventually take all the good jobs,”said Fageaux.
According to its website, the Port of Los Angles is responsible for 1.2 million jobs in California and 3.6 million jobs across the country.