Port of Los Angeles

By Peter Jamison
February 24, 2015

Southern California port officials say it could take up to three months to clear cargo that piled up during a labor dispute that threatened to cripple West Coast commerce.

On Friday, shipping companies and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached an agreement in contract talks that had dragged on since last year. The White House dispatched Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to California to help broker an agreement after the standoff all but closed ports from Southern California to Washington state over the President’s Day weekend.

As political leaders held a news conference Monday with industry officials in San Pedro to celebrate the tentative deal — which still must be ratified by shipping companies and union members — some sounded a sober note.

“Today behind me we are working 22 vessels,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, standing on the deck of the decommissioned battleship USS Iowa as cranes lifted containers from ships in the distance. “We have 35 more ships at anchor at our breakwater and two dozen more on their way pointed to Los Angeles and Long Beach. There is much work to do.”

The deal reached last week came after a months-long stalemate between the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents shipping companies.

The two sides’ failure to agree brought increasing pressure from elected leaders, including California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Public perception soured after word leaked that a final obstacle was the union’s demand that a single, low-level dock official in charge of overseeing workplace disputes be fired. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that it was “crazy” for negotiations to stall over such a small problem.

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