Port labor dispute sizzles with mediator, warehouse lawsuit

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The busy holiday retail shipping season is long gone, but the ongoing labor dispute at the Port of Los Angeles is moving no faster than the Titanic.

For much of the last year, ongoing labor problems between  the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), as well as other parties, have slowed goods movement at several West Coast ports – most notably the massive twin ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

To address the issue, a federal agency dedicated to mediations is stepping in to bring the parties together.

A news release issued Monday by the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced it would assign employees to mediate dialogue between the ILWU and the PMA.

“In response to a joint request for assistance from the parties, collective bargaining between ILWU and PMA representatives will continue as soon as possible under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said Allison Beck, acting director of the FMCS, according to a news release.

“We are prepared and ready to render prompt assistance. Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, a senior FMCS mediator with extensive collective bargaining experience in this industry, has been assigned to help the parties bring these important negotiations to a mutually acceptable resolution,” Beck said.

The mediation comes after the National Retail Federation and 160 other companies and organizations urged President Obama to have a mediator step in.

FMCS cited agency policy in not releasing meeting dates or locations for the negotiations.

“In addition, the FMCS will have no further comment at this time regarding the status or substance of the negotiations,” the release said.

If the mediation settles problems with warehouse workers and the maritime association, don’t expect all labor problems surrounding the twin ports to stop.

In December, five employees filed a lawsuit against California Cartage Co. and two staffing services for alleged violations of Los Angeles’s living wage ordinance. The suit comes on the heels of complaints by truck drivers that multiple port-based motor carriers are misclassifying drivers as independent contractors to drive down wages and withhold employee benefits.

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