Union Strike Halts Activity at Calif. Seaport Complex

The recent strike of a local International Longshore and Warehouse Union has brought a near-complete stop to activity at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together make up the nation’s busiest port complex.

Full membership of the ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit walked out on Wednesday due to wages and working conditions, joining a number of their peers who went on strike Tuesday, defying an order from a labor arbitrator to return to work Tuesday night. Remaining members of the ILWU have refused to cross picket lines, stranding cargo destined for the ports.

Sandy Kennedy, president of Arlington, Va.-based RILA, stated how disastrous these recent events will be for the retail industry, especially during the holiday shopping season, adding that “If the strike isn’t resolved quickly, the effects on retailers, their customers and the economy will be enormous,” Kennedy said. “We urge the parties to quickly resolve the dispute and get back to work in order to avoid the substantial economic damage a prolonged work stoppage would surely cause.”

The local union has formed picket lines at seven of the eight terminals at the Los Angeles port, which is the largest in the U.S.; and three of the six terminals at the Long Beach port, the second largest in terms of cargo volume.

According to The Huffington Post, Wednesday’s strike, which resulted from a talk breakdown on Monday, follows a 2.5-year contract dispute with 14 shippers. It is uncertain how much the strike is costing the ports, yet a 10-day lockout in 2002 at a number of West Coast ports resulted in an estimated loss of $15 billion.  Currently, no new contract talks have been scheduled. 

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