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8/4/2014 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

$2 Billion a Day at Stake if Longshoremen Join Truckers on West Coast Port Picket Lines

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News

For executives at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the 120 disgruntled truck drivers who picketed for five days last month proved to be little more than a nuisance. Now the busiest U.S. ports face a potentially wider problem: 7,000 longshore workers joining them.

“The big question now is whether the longshoremen walk,” said Phillip Sanfield, a Port of Los Angeles spokesman. “There would be some impact if the truckers disrupt traffic. But if the longshoremen honor the picket lines? It’s much, much bigger.”

Should members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refuse to cross the independent drivers’ picket line, it would put at risk a portion of the $435 billion worth of annual trade through Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest U.S. ports. That would pinch retailers, many of which have been struggling to increase sales this year, before the holiday shopping season.

West Coast longshoremen have worked without a contract since July 1. Talks between the union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association are scheduled to resume Aug. 4 after a 10-day break. The old contract prohibited longshore employees from striking in support of the truck drivers. Now, without a contract, the longshoremen are free to join picket lines. 

Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman, and Wade Gates, spokesman for the San Francisco-based Pacific Maritime Association, both declined to comment.

Drivers walked off the job and formed picket lines at three of the eight terminals at the Port of Los Angeles on July 7. Longshoremen, who load and unload cargo ships, arrived for work that day and chose to honor the pickets for two hours.

During that period, at least two terminals, operated by Scottsdale, Arizona-based American President Lines Ltd. and Tokyo-based Yusen Logistics Co., closed their gates, Sanfield said.

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By Lynn Doan
Bloomberg News

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