SoCal ILWU office workers strike looms, talks continue
Contract negotiations between Southern California marine carriers and the dockworker union representing nearly 1,000 of their office workers ran into the early morning hours of Monday, despite the passing of two separate weekend walkout deadlines set by the union.
Officials from the 930-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, in negotiations since the current contract ran out on June 30, called the Saturday midnight walkout deadline last Tuesday after frustrations built up over the slow progress of talks with marine terminal and carrier firms in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Saturday's deadline was extended until Sunday at midnight and talks continued at least an hour past the second deadline into Monday morning.
While neither side was willing to talk specifics, reports indicate that the two sides remain far apart on wages and benefits.
OCU President John Fageaux Jr. said during a break early Monday that if talks collapsed, picket lines would go up.
“We’re in the process of presenting our last, best and final offer,” he told the Associated Press during the early morning break.
The OCU union local, an entity unique to Southern California, is part of the area's larger 15,000-strong ILWU dockworker union. However, the union negotiates their contract with 14 Los Angeles-Long Beach-area maritime firms directly and not with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the interest of West Coast maritime firms in negotiations with the parent ILWU union. The OCU represents mainly 'white collar' office and clerical workers in the 'off-port' offices of maritime firms.
While the parent ILWU dockworker's union has agreed to honor any OCU picket lines — effectively shutting down the nation's two busiest container ports on the eve of the peak shipping season — there is some contention whether the OCU members' positions outside the ports would lead to restraining orders being filed in the case of a walkout and subsequent supportive walkout at the docks.
The lead negotiator for the maritime firms said that the employers’ latest offer included raises that over the life of the three-year contract would raise the union members' hourly pay to $39.20, while the union is seeking increases that would equal $53 per hour by the last year of the contract. The employers contend that the OCU members are the highest paid office workers in the nation.