Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talks during a news conference on the port strike negotiations at the Port of Los Angeles on Tuesday.(Photo: Nick Ut, AP)
LOS ANGELES -- Clerical workers and longshoremen at the nation's
largest port complex will return to work Wednesday, eight days after
they walked out in a crippling strike that prevented shippers from
delivering billions of dollars in cargo across the country.
really pleased to tell all of you that my 10,000 longshore workers in
the ports of LA and Long Beach are going to start moving cargo on these
ships," said Ray Familathe, vice president of the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union. "We're going to get cargo moved
throughout the supply chain and the country and get everybody those that
they're looking for in those stores."
Negotiators reached an
agreement to end the strike late Tuesday, less than two hours after
federal mediators arrived from Washington, D.C. No details about the
terms of the deal were released.
Days of negotiations that
included all-night bargaining sessions suddenly went from a stalemate to
big leaps of progress by Tuesday. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the
sides were already prepared to take a vote when the mediators arrived.
issue during the lengthy negotiations was the union's contention that
terminal operators wanted to outsource future clerical jobs out of state
and overseas - an allegation the shippers denied.
they wanted the flexibility not to fill jobs that were no longer needed
as clerks quit or retired. They said they promised the current clerks
The strike began Nov. 27, when 450 members of
the union's local clerical workers unit walked off their jobs. The
clerks had been working without a contract for more than two years.
walkout quickly closed 10 of the ports' 14 terminals when some 10,000
dockworkers, members of the clerks' sister union, refused to cross
Even though the deal was reached soon after their arrival, the federal mediators said they had little to do with the solution.
the final analysis, it worked. The parties reached their own agreement,
said George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation
Service. "There is no question in my mind that collective bargaining is
the best example of industrial democracy in action."
During the strike, both sides said salaries, vacation, pensions and other benefits were not a major issue.
clerks, who make an average base salary of $87,000 a year, have some of
the best-paying blue-collar jobs in the nation. When vacation, pension
and other benefits are factored in, the employers said, their annual
compensation package reached $165,000 a year.
"We know we're
blessed," one of the strikers, Trinnie Thompson, said during the
walkout. "We're very thankful for our jobs. We just want to keep them."
leaders said if future jobs were not kept at the ports, the result
would be another section of the U.S. economy taking a serious economic
hit so that huge corporations could increase their profit margins by
exploiting people in other states and countries who would be forced to
work for less.
Combined, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports
handle about 44 percent of all cargo that arrives in the U.S. by sea.
About $1 billion a day in merchandise, including cars from Japan and
computers from China, flow past its docks.
Shuttering 10 of the
ports' 14 terminals kept about $760 million a day in cargo from being
delivered, according to port officials. The cargo stacked up on the
docks and in adjacent rail yards or, in many cases, remained on arriving
ships. Some of those ships were diverted to other ports along the West
After the deal was reached, the ports' management said they
were "delighted that the terminals will be operating again, that the
cargo will be flowing."
The clerks handle such tasks as filing
invoices and billing notices, arranging dock visits by customs
inspectors, and ensuring that cargo moves off the dock quickly and gets
where it's supposed to go. The $1 billion a day in cargo that moves
through the busy port terminals is loaded on trucks and trains that take
it to warehouses and distribution centers across the country.
Villaraigosa, who had been calling for the two sides to reach a deal for days, said he was pleased by the resolution.
"I think it's appropriate to say 'mission accomplished,'" he said.