OAKLAND (KCBS)— Maritime companies are making their case for a new labor contract directly to West Coast dockworkers, hoping the rank-and-file will pressure union negotiators to reach a deal that would let billions of dollars of cargo now stuck at West Coast ports flow freely again.
Employers on Wednesday distributed letters at major ports from Los Angeles to Washington state that detailed what they called their last, best and final contract offer.
Meanwhile, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez remains in San Francisco seeking to broker a settlement to end West Coast port shipping disruptions.
Perez has had calls with a number of state and locally elected officials, but as of Wednesday morning, Port of Oakland marine terminals were open, and requests for labor were filled.
There are 10 vessels at berth, but the Bay remains a parking lot for container ships as 17 await berths. Truck traffic is light at the terminal gates.
In a statement, Secretary Perez, who's been having a nightly call with West Coast mayors, said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association (the parties involved) have made tremendous progress.
San Francico Mayor Ed lee who is among the mayors in on that nightly call said Perez has been welcoming of their input.
"It's not just the big businesses that are hurt by this. All the small companies that can't get their goods in and out," he said.
The Port of Oakland has been dramatically impacted by this dispute. The port said shipping container imports were down 39 percent compared with January 2014, and exports declined 26 percent in the same period. Overall cargo volume declined 32 percent year-over-year.
"We learned a lesson from the 2002 lockout," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "Often when business goes away from the Port of Oakland, it never comes back."
The mayor went on to say that Oakland's port supports 73,000 jobs in the region. In 2006 Schaaf was public affairs director for the Port of Oakland.
"We have got to get these parties at the table to resolve what really remains as one pretty small issue," she said, adding that the only issue remaining is how arbitrators are selected or dismissed.
"All the complex and difficult issues of health care, wages, and working conditions have been resolved."
Dockworkers and their bosses have been at odds for nine months. The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti is also in San Francisco meeting with both sides in the ongoing ports dispute.
The Port of Los Angles is the nation's number one seaport. The 29 West Coast ports, handle nearly half of U.S. maritime trade, or $1 trillion annually, and more than 70 percent of shipments from Asia.
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