In one of the busiest weeks of the peak shipping season, dockworker picketing shut down the Global Gateway South terminal of APL in Los Angeles, seeking leverage in contract negotiations involving newly organized superintendents.
The picketing by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 is the latest attempt by the local to influence negotiations that will establish a contract template for formerly management superintendents that the union is organizing in Southern California.
The job action comes at the worst possible time for terminal operators in the largest US port complex. Vessels filled with holiday season imports are usually full at this time of year because importers are rushing to ship their merchandise before factories in China close for the Golden Week celebration that will begin Sunday.
ILWU Local 63 in Southern California this summer has been attempting to organize terminal superintendents that have historically been part of management. The National Labor Relations
Board has certified the voting results at two of the terminals — Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals, and APL — and the union local is in the process of negotiating contracts with the terminal operators.
The contract negotiations at Pasha have been under way for two months. Last month, ILWU Local 63 placed pickets at Pasha to gain leverage in the contract negotiations. The local waterfront arbitrator ruled that day that the pickets were not “bona fide,” meaning they were in violation of the coastwide contract between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, and the pickets were removed. The ILWU appealed that decision to a three-member arbitration panel, which has yet to rule.
Thursday’s job action at the APL terminal follows the same pattern as that that took place at Pasha. APL is in contract negotiations with ILWU Local 63 for the newly organized superintendents. With the terminal shut down for the first shift on Thursday, APL and Local 63 were awaiting the local arbitrator’s ruling as to whether the picketing is bona fide.
Local 63 is also negotiating superintendent contracts at the Ports America/ITS terminal in Long Beach and the Everport terminal in Los Angeles. The ILWU and the PMA headquarters in San Francisco are not commenting on the local events in Southern California. The contracts that are being negotiated for the superintendents are terminal-specific, and do not fall under the coastwide contract. The PMA and ILWU at the coast level are involved only in the arbitration process.
The organizing of superintendents is a controversial development, with management and labor having strong views on this subject. Superintendent positions until now have always been part of management. Terminal operators consider superintendents to be their face to the public, and terminals that are considered to be efficient and well-managed say this quality differentiates them from competitors. There are 13 container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach.
The ILWU, meanwhile, said that in the new era of computerization, the number of superintendents has proliferated. The ILWU charges that the superintendents are performing work that belongs under ILWU jurisdiction.
Terminal operators whose superintendents have not yet been organized are taking what they consider to be preventative action. Some terminals have increased pay levels for superintendents to convince them to remain management. One terminal is said to have laid off a number of its superintendents.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo.