L.A. ports open after 8-day strike

A backlog of trucks wait to be loaded at the Port of Los Angeles after settlement of a strike that crippled the nation's shipping.
A backlog of trucks wait to be loaded at the Port of Los Angeles after settlement of a strike that crippled the nation's shipping. (NICK UT / AP)
Posted: December 06, 2012

LOS ANGELES - Work resumed Wednesday at the nation's busiest port complex after a crippling strike was settled, ending an eight-day walk-off that affected thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in cargo.

Gates at the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors reopened, and dockworkers were ready to resume loading and unloading ships that had been stuck for days, Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

"It's going to take a few days, maybe a week or two, to get back to normal," Long Beach port spokesman Art Wong said.

Dozens of ships were idled at the complex or delayed on their way in, officials said. Auto parts, retail merchandise for January sales, and repair parts for Redbox video kiosks were among the items that could be late in getting to their destinations around the country, Wong said.

Television reports showed huge cargo vessels moving into port, and a line of trucks waiting to enter a terminal.

Clerical workers who said shippers were outsourcing their jobs went on strike Nov. 27, and thousands of dockworkers in the same union refused to cross picket lines, paralyzing much of the port complex that handles 44 percent of all container cargo that arrives by sea nationwide, including items such as cars from Japan and computers from China.

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement to end the strike late Tuesday, two hours after federal mediators arrived.

The union said the proposed contract between clerical workers and 14 shipping terminal operators contained new protections against outsourcing their well-paid jobs out of state and overseas. Clerical workers are expected to ratify the deal in the next week or two.

The key provision prohibits companies from cutting the local workforce by more than 14 positions through the June 2016 life of the contract. Companies also must fill vacant positions when workers are absent for vacations or other reasons, although in certain cases, they can wait about a month.

The companies had argued that previous rules requiring them to fill positions even when the workload didn't justify it amounted to union featherbedding.

However, "compromise is necessary to get people back to work," said Steve Getzug of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which is representing management.

Port officials estimated $760 million worth of cargo a day failed to move through the ports during the walkout. Some 20 ships were diverted to other ports in California and Mexico; others scheduled to reach Southern California didn't sail.

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