Waterfront Labor Negotiations Update

Waterfront Clerical Workers with Annual Wages and Benefits Over $160,000 Threaten to Disrupt Operations at Southern California ports

Jun 29, 2010, 19:06 ET from Los Angeles/Long Beach Employers Association

LOS ANGELES, June 29 /PRNewswire/ --

Status of Negotiations

On April 19, 2010, the 14 member companies of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association (www.harboremployers.com) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) began negotiations for new collective bargaining agreements covering about 600 clerical workers.  These workers provide customer service and other support for cargo movement operations of the companies at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and their contracts are negotiated separately from longshoremen.

The contracts expire on June 30, yet the OCU has been unwilling or unavailable to meet for more than 20 of the bargaining days over the last 10 weeks.  As of today -- one day before the expiration of the contracts -- the OCU has not given the employers a full proposal, not even a wage proposal.

The OCU has now threatened a job action, which in the past has included work stoppages.  After historic drops in cargo volumes and shipping rates related to the global economic crisis over the last 20 months, thousands of dockworkers are finally getting back to full employment on the waterfront.  Against this backdrop, even the suggestion of disruption is irresponsible, ignores the fragility of the volume rebound, could upset cargo orders on the West Coast just ahead of peak season, and could reverse the modest gains that have begun to put people back to work.

The employers are committed to continued good faith negotiations to reach a fair resolution for both sides.

Job Security for All Current Employees

All employers have offered to retain all existing current employees despite inconsistent availability of sufficient work and a fragile recovery.

Contrary to OCU claims, no company has transferred any bargaining unit work away from the OCU, including to any foreign country.

Unparalleled Wage/Benefit Package

OCU members earn average annual wages of $96,900 – with some over $250,000.  The OCU acknowledges this makes them the highest paid clerical workers in the United States.

OCU members also receive a benefits package worth approximately an additional $66,000/yr.  These benefits include:

  • Fully paid medical, dental, and vision coverage, including free generic prescriptions, for workers and dependents, which costs the employers nearly $3,000/mo. for families
  • 21 - 23 paid holidays (more than double what most U.S. employees receive)
  • 13 - 15 paid sick days a year, which can accrue up to 132 days or be cashed out at hourly rates
  • Paid vacation at an average of 4.25 weeks – and up to seven weeks – per year
  • Paid time off for unlimited medical and dental appointments of employees and their family members
  • Employer-funded 401(k), up to $2,000 annually
  • Pension of $150/mo. for each year of service (which equals $54,000/yr. for a 30-yr employee)

Local 63's Current Bargaining Demands

Despite a projected 49 percent increase in health plan premiums, the OCU refuses to agree to employer requests to discourage excessive out-of-network doctor visits.

Though it has not yet provided a wage proposal, the OCU is seeking a 37% increase in the already extremely generous pension rate.

The OCU has also demanded that the employers take a union-dispatched temporary worker every time an employee misses a day of work, which is about one day a week for every employee, regardless of whether there is any work for the temporary worker to perform.  In addition, the OCU has demanded that the employers hire a replacement for any employee who quits or retires, even if there is no business need to fill the position.

Essential Employer Needs

Among the essential provisions proposed by the employers for a new OCU contract are:

Flexibility in staffing.  The employers ask simply that they only be required to call in temporary employees or hire new employees when there is a real business need.

Limit abuse of Health & Welfare benefits.  OCU employees do not contribute any amount to the cost of their "Cadillac" medical, dental, and vision plans that would be the envy of most working Americans.  To maintain current benefits, the health plan trust fund expert consultant has projected a 49 percent increase in premiums for 2011.  The employers seek changes to encourage use of the excellent PPO network and discourage out-of-network abuse driving up the cost of already expensive benefits.

Use of technology to serve customer needs.  Ocean carrier and terminal customers demand the ability to continue to book cargo and handle other business online.  But the OCU seeks to dismantle the ability to use technology that was negotiated between the parties in 2004 and return to less efficient and less customer friendly processes.  The employers want to preserve this technology, which enables them to remain competitive and meet customer needs, while providing the OCU a meaningful role in the implementation of technology.  

Competitive equity.  Instead of using the contract grievance procedure, the OCU has historically singled out two or three employers for unjustified "punishment" in the form of higher wages and more paid time off.  The employers seek to end this practice by proposing that each company be allowed to adopt contract terms offered by the union to a competitor that provide lower wages, benefits, or staffing costs.

Length of contract.  The Longshoremen agreed to a six-year contract in 2002 and again in 2008.  The employers are seeking a six-year agreement for the stability this would provide during these uncertain economic times.

About the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association is a not-for-profit association representing shipping agencies and terminal operators in Southern California. The Association assists its members in matters relating to the employment of ILWU Local 63 office clerical employees, including the administration of the labor contracts of member companies.


Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for employers

Los Angeles/Long Beach Employers Association

(714) 603-6001 (mobile)

SOURCE Los Angeles/Long Beach Employers Association