As labor negotiations at West Coast ports stall, Teamsters say they’ll support truckers in work stoppage

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Labor negotiations between dockworkers and port company managers have hit another snag in their ongoing — and now nearly six-month-long — labor negotiations, and the struggle between the two parties to strike an agreement could lead to work stoppages, either in the form of a lockout by managers or a strike by workers.

The latest roadblock is the selection of an arbitrator, according to a letter from U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who this week wrote to the two groups, the International LongShore Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association, urging them to reach a resolution.

And though a work stoppage may come, the Teamsters said this week they would aid port truckers who could be sidelined by a lockout or strike. The union said it would help drivers obtain unemployment benefits and offer food and utility assistance.

Teamsters Local 848 head Eric Tate made the announcement this week. “Each and every truck driver that drivers into the pot knows that they can come here to Teamsters 848 to get unemployment benefits, even though they are misclassified as lease drivers,” Tate said.

West Coast governors have joined the growing number of elected officials and business organizations demanding settlement, including California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “After nine months of bargaining, to be hung up on what appears to be arcane process issues is unacceptable,” Brown said. “Get it done, guys.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined a federal mediator Feb. 17, who has assisting negotiations for more than a month. The dockworkers and clerical union have worked without a contract since July, despite beginning talks in May.

At Oakland’s marine terminals, the ILWU cancelled the Feb. 19 day shift to attend a union meeting traditionally held at night. There would be no work on the 12 vessels at berth, release of import containers or acceptance of overseas containers for export.

Overdrive Senior Editor Todd Dills reported this week on how the labor disputes have impacted freight availability — Click here to read that piece.