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Strike Closes Ports, Los Angeles in Panic

UPDATE: Strike ended.  Some details here.

In response to the strike that has shut down 10 of the 14 Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for 8 days and counting, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called for round-the-clock bargaining with the use of a federal mediator.

The strike, which started Tuesday, Nov. 27, is part of the over two-year-long labor dispute between the 800 member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit and the shipping management.

While small in numbers on their own, some 10,000 dock-working members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (who negotiate separate contracts) are refusing to cross the picket line, triggering national concern.

Members of the National Retail Federation recently alerted President Obama and members of Congress to the severe financial consequences the strike could have on the national economy. The retailers merchandise has been rerouted or is indefinitely anchored outside the harbor, and they are pleading for a quick resolution by way of federal intervention

An overnight negotiating session resulted in an agreement by both sides to call in a mediator, who was scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening.

While Villaraigosa seems to appear optimistic, it also seems neither side sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

This dispute is a classic he-said-she-said argument with Union leaders accusing the shippers of plans to outsource clerical jobs and shippers denying those claims and offering life-long job security for current workers, but asking for flexibility where new-hires are concerned.

The twin ports are the busiest in the country, accounting for some 44 percent of all sea-faring cargo into the U.S., a percentage that is estimated to cost the economy $1 billion per day.

Worse still is the ever-darkening cloud looming over East and Gulf Coast ports from Main to Texas in the separate ongoing labor dispute between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance.

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