Dockworkers, employers go back to negotiating table


Clerical workers continued Thursday to walk the picket line at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"We'd much rather be at our desks working," said Kim Rich, ILWU office clerical unit.

More than 500 workers with the International Longshore And Warehouse Union Local 63 Clerical Unit have been working without a contract since June 2010. The dispute involves 14 shippers.

The strike has shut down most of the terminals at the busiest port complex in the U.S. Cranes sit idle, container ships sit off the coast as other longshore workers refuse to cross the lines to load or unload cargo. The workers who handle such things as billing and record tracking say one of the main issues is outsourcing jobs. The shippers deny this.

The negotiator for the employers says clerical workers receive $165,000 a year, including benefits, and have offered to increase that.

"We are not fighting for a pay raise. We are fighting to keep these jobs," said Kim Rich.

"No layoffs have been proposed. To the opposite: We have guaranteed them a job for life," said Stephen Berry, employers negotiator.

Kim Rich says she gets paid $41 an hour and has two weeks of vacation after 10 years as an office clerk at Seaside Transportation. She says their workload has increased.

"Since our contract expired two years ago, 52 people have retired. Our employers do not feel that they need to replace those jobs," said Rich.

"They've demanded that we replace positions that have been vacated by retired workers or workers who have left the workforce. These demands are unreasonable," said Stephen Berry, employers negotiator.

Both the workers and shippers agree that the strike will have an impact if it continues.

"I don't believe most people realize that probably 80 or 90 percent of what they touch on a daily basis comes across the ocean on a container ship," said Sonia Ziegler.

Workers intend to continue picketing until a contract is reached.

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