No Labor Day Strike At Los Angeles Ports

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The threat of a Labor Day weekend strike by train workers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has been averted.
     Pacific Harbor Line, the only short-line rail carrier at the ports, withdrew its request for a restraining order against the rail union on Thursday, the day after filing it.
     The railroad and the union have had a prolonged fight over engineer pay.
     Pacific Harbor Line on Wednesday sued the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and its Division 214, but withdrew the lawsuit after union attorneys said the union had not authorized a strike.
     Pacific Harbor claimed that a walkout would cost it more than $85,000 a day, and that total economic losses could come to more than $1 billion a day.
     The two ports handle one-third of the nation’s sea trade, about 11 million shipping containers a year, the railroad said in its initial lawsuit. That’s 10 percent more than the volume of the next four biggest ports combined: New York, Savannah, Oakland and Seattle.
     After union lawyers sent a letter to Pacific Harbor, saying the union had not authorized a strike, the railroad withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order.
     The fight stems from a disagreement over the collective bargaining agreement for engineers.
     Pacific Harbor said it employs 153 workers, 115 of them engineers or assistant engineers. Assistant engineers do not possess a locomotive engineer’s certificate, which would qualify them for a $220 daily rate; they are paid $195 a day, the railroad said in its original complaint.
     The union claims that under the collective bargaining agreement assistant engineers should be paid the same rate as certified locomotive engineers, according to Pacific Harbor.
     But the railroad claims the union never negotiated a higher rate for the 33 assistant engineers, who, under federal regulations introduced in April, are called “conductors,” rather than certified locomotive engineers.
     When negotiations stalled, union leader Bill Hannah warned former Pacific Harbor president Michael Stolzman that he “better get a TRO [temporary restraining order],” the railroad said in its lawsuit.
     A clerical workers strike shut down the ports in November 2012 when 10,000 dockworkers refused to cross the picket lines.
     Pacific Harbor was represented by Robert Siegel with O’Melveny & Myers.
     A spokesman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

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