A container ship is loaded at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
A container ship is loaded at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

Responding to fears of an impending shutdown at West Coast seaports, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach urged dockworkers and their employers Thursday to resolve labor disputes that have dragged on since last July.

Jim McKenna, president of the Pacific Maritime Association — which represents employers at West Coast ports — said that with the possibility of a “coastwide meltdown just a week or two away,” an “all-in” best offer was presented Wednesday to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The five-year contract proposal by the PMA includes 3 percent raises each year; an 11.1 percent increase on pensions to $88,800 per year; and the full payment of employee health-care costs, with no premiums, no in-network deductibles or co-pays, $1 prescriptions and 100 percent coverage of basic hospital, medical and surgical benefits.

Productivity at the ports, which is measured by the amount of goods moved out of shipping yards has fallen “30, 40, even 50 percent,” McKenna said, contending the union is conducting an illegal slowdown.  ILWU officials deny the claim, saying they are only allowing certified crane operators to work.

ILWU President Robert McEllrath said the union is “extremely close” to an agreement with PMA.

“We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled — and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved,” said McEllrath, who leads an organization that represents 20,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports.

He added that it would be “reckless and irresponsible” for employers to close the ports so close to a resolution.

With the new proposal on the table, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia urged the two sides, which are in federal mediation, to reach an agreement soon.

The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports “are important engines for our local and national economy, so it is critical that both the ILWU and PMA continue talking to quickly reach an agreement and return our ports to efficient operations,” they said in a jointly issued statement.

The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have also been congested due to larger ships bringing more cargo at one time. The two ports now regularly see more than a dozen ships waiting in line to get into the harbor, compared with the previous year when there were no ships waiting.

City News Service

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