All terminals of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are open as of 7am Wednesday morning.
The OCU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit) strike that crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went into an 8th day on Tuesday with no end in sight. Then it seemed to suddenly be over.
L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa announced an agreement had been made late Tuesday night between the harbor employers and the OCU. The mayor put pressure on the two parties to accept federal mediation.
It was 2002 the last time a strike similar to this happened. That one lasted 10 days before the president used emergency power to end it. There was no sign that Obama was going to do something similar during this strike that was costing the economy an estimated billion dollars a day and logistical nightmares. People were beginning to expect this strike to go well beyond 10 days.
However, the pressure from Mayor Villaraigosa and the approach of federal mediators put extra urgency into the negotiations between the nation’s highest paid clerks and the terminal operators employing them.
Villaraigosa went back to the bargaining table around a half hour before the federal mediation team, who joined a little before 9pm. Close to 10pm, there was a tentative agreement on a new contract between the OCU and terminal operators.
Upon reaching an agreement, the Harbor Employers Association released a statement that included the following:
“The harbor employers are grateful for the efforts of the elected and community leaders who assisted the parties in reaching an agreement. Thousands of workers who had been left without work will now be able to return to their jobs and keep cargo moving in the harbor community.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are a critical economic gateway for the nation. The harbor employers look forward to resuming operations to help the ports grow and maintain their vital role in the economic welfare of the community, region, and nation.”
OCU President John Fageaux said, “There’s going to be a backup, but my people are very eager to get back to work. We’re going to make our best effort to take care of the ships that are out there as quickly as possible.”
Everyone will have to work very hard to catch up from the 8 day strike that caused ships to be docked, rerouted, cargo backed up, and the supply chain severely disrupted.
But hopefully, the tension that has been building for the last couple years in the OCU is now relieved.
OCU members had been working without a contract since 2010. The new contract will take them to 2016.
Apparently, the language of the contract was made acceptable to the OCU in terms of potential new technology and outsourcing while the employers made some gain in staffing control.
Gazettes reports, “The deal includes wage and pension increases for the OCU members, an acknowledgement that technology can continue to be implemented that elevates customer service and operators will get some flexibility in hiring decisions for fulltime and temporary workers, [Harbor Employers Association spokesman Steve] Getzug said.”
All that’s left is for the OCU to completely ratify the agreement, but that is expected to happen smoothly during the next week or so.
Now that cargo imports and exports can start getting back to normal at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, attention shifts over to the ILA strike watch on the East Coast where the Longshoremen are scheduled to strike in less than a month from now.