Cargo-handling and gate operations in Los Angeles-Long Beach were back to normal this afternoon after a waterfront arbitrator ordered longshoremen not to honor picket lines established by striking truck drivers.
However, while the marine terminals are expected to continue working smoothly, the strike by owner-operator truck drivers against Total Transportation Services Inc., Green Fleet Systems and Pac-9 trucking companies is “indefinite,” Teamsters spokeswoman Babara Maynard said.
While it is likely that some drivers will continue to strike the three companies, and will continue to protest in the harbor, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, at least until Friday, should not honor the truckers’ pickets.
The Teamsters union since last year has been attempting to organize drivers at those trucking companies, and the contract negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association for a new waterfront contract gave the Teamsters an opportunity to add some leverage to their efforts.
The ILWU and PMA negotiators failed to reach a new agreement by the July 1 deadline. The ILWU and PMA said cargo handling would not be interrupted, but the ILWU refused to extend the previous contract while the negotiations continued.
With no contract in place, the waterfront grievance mechanism, through which either side can request arbitration during a labor dispute, was suspended. Therefore, members of the ILWU have been free to take any job actions they wished or to honor any picket lines in the harbor since July 1.
However, the ILWU and PMA on Monday announced they had to interrupt the contract negotiations for three days over an unrelated issue. In a strange turn of events, the ILWU on Monday agreed to extend the previous contract for three days.
The independent truckers this morning set up picket lines in the harbor, and the dockworkers at three terminals — APL and Evergreen in Los Angeles and Long Beach Container Terminal — walked off their jobs.
The waterfront arbitrator was called in and, to no one’s surprise, ruled that the truckers’ action did not constitute a “bona fide” picket under the waterfront contract. He ordered the longshoremen back to work, and they promptly returned to their jobs.
Employers speculate that the longshore union, in an effort to demonstrate solidarity with the Teamsters, allowed its members to honor the pickets at several terminals because the arbitrator would most likely order the longshoremen back to work, as he had done in previous trucker strikes.
However, the ILWU has never been keen on allowing other organizations, such as the Occupy Oakland movement in 2011, to use the waterfront for their own purposes. Therefore, today’s show of solidarity with the Teamsters was brief and did not have a significant impact on cargo handling at the nation’s largest port complex.
The Teamsters are likely to continue their efforts to organize TTSI, Green Fleet and Pac-9, but the strike will have a minor impact on truck capacity in the harbor because there are hundreds of trucking companies in Southern California.
Also, Alex Cherin, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association, said the strikers account for less than 10 percent of the drivers at TTSI, Green Fleet and Pac-9, and those companies continue to service most of their accounts in the harbor.
Contract negotiations between the PMA and ILWU are scheduled to resume on Friday, July 11. Since negotiations will then be 10 days past the deadline, and the ILWU’s agreement to extend the previous contract will expire on Friday, negotiators will be under pressure to make progress in the talks.
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Jul 08, 2014 7:23PM EDT