Labor Dispute Snarls Port of Oakland


OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Incoming ships are backed up and outgoing ships are stalled at the Port of Oakland in a labor dispute between longshore workers and terminal operators.
     A nearly weeklong work stoppage came after nine months of contract negotiations between union dockworkers and terminal operators at 29 ports on the West Coast. The impasse spurred President Obama to send U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday to assist in the negotiations.
     Longshore workers took the day off Thursday for a union meeting.
     The dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 20,000 dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, on behalf of 72 shipping companies, began when the dockworkers’ contract expired on June 30, 2014.
     The Port says that container imports declined by 39 percent in January compared with last year and that exports were down by 26 percent.
     “The decision not to work is damaging to shippers who rely on the Port of Oakland to move their cargo, and to the thousands of people who depend on the Port for their livelihood,” John Driscoll, the port’s maritime director, said in a statement.
     “Disruptions such as this one cripple our ability to support global trade and the economy of the Bay Area.”
     The port said that union meetings such as the one held Thursday, known as stop-work meetings, have long been a part of labor-management contracts at West Coast ports, but the meetings have traditionally been held at night.
     Thursday’s day-shift meeting, the port said, coincided with the port’s peak period of daily activity.
     Union officers could not be reached for comment Thursday.
     The port said full marine terminal operations were expected to resume Friday.

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