REUTERS: “… no activity … up and down the West Coast”
By Jill Serjeant and Bernard Woodall / 2:55PDT
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ports along the U.S. West Coast, including the country’s busiest port complex in Los Angeles, shut down on Thursday as some 10,000 dock workers went on a one-day strike to protest the war in Iraq, port and union officials said.
Twenty-nine ports from San Diego to Washington state that handle more than half of U.S waterborne trade ground to a halt, but shipping experts said the economic costs of the walk-out would be limited.
“We are hearing there is no activity taking place up and down the West Coast,” said Steve Getzug, spokesman of the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents all 29 ports. “There is no unloading or loading.”
At the Los Angeles-area port of Long Beach, a hub for trade with Asia, a Reuters reporter said the normally bustling area was unusually quiet and there were no signs of protesters.
Long Beach Port terminal operators expect union workers to return for the second shift beginning at 6:00 p.m. PDT (9:00 p.m. EDT/0100 GMT on Friday).
Paul Bingham, an economist with Global Insight, which tracks container volume and congestion at U.S. ports, said labor officials had alerted shippers and carriers.
“If this had come as a surprise it would have been a lot more serious in its impact,” said Bingham, also noting that it was not peak season for shipping.
“This isn’t like the West Coast port lockout in 2002 when we shut down the ports for 10 days,” he added.The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said some 10,000 workers joined the anti-war protest, spurred in part by its belief that big shipping companies are profiting from the war.
“Longshore workers are standing down on the job and standing up for America,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath. “We’re supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq.”
‘LEVERAGE CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS’
But port officials cast doubts over the war protest motive.
PMA’s Getzug said the action came two months prior to the expiration of the current labor agreement.
“Today’s actions raised the question of whether this was an attempt to leverage contract negotiations,” he said in a statement.
He added that the work stoppage was illegal under the PMA’s contract with the ILWU.
It was not clear how many ships or containers were affected by the longshore workers action. But the PMA said that on a typical weekday shift between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. about 10,000 containers are moved on the West Coast.
Arly Baker, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, said 15 ships were to arrive at the port on Thursday and about half of them had arrived and berthed before the work stoppage began for the day.”What this amounts to is probably the same effect of an official holiday where the terminals shut down,” Baker said. “There won’t be a backup in cargo or some kind of bottleneck resulting from it.”
Together, the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 43 percent of the container cargo imports, including most of the household goods shipped from China.
The two ports bring in about $1 billion of cargo daily, Baker said.
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in Los Angeles and Dan Whitcomb in Long Beach; Editing by Eric Walsh)
NEW YORK TIMES: 25,000 Dock workers Strike For Peace
Major mainstream media is beginning to report about the massive one-day dock strike in protest of the Iraq war. For an article to be published tomorrow, May 2nd, here is the New York Times article:
By John Holusha / New York Times
Thousands of dockworkers at West Coast ports stayed off the job on Thursday in what their union said was a call for an end to the war in Iraq.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said more than 25,000 members in 29 ports stayed off the job. The action came despite an order issued Wednesday by an arbitrator directing the union to tell its members to report for work as usual in response to a request from employers.
“Longshore workers are standing down on the job and standing up for America,” Bob McEllrath, the union’s president, said in a statement. “We’re supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq.”
The scene at most West Coast ports was quiet, without any scuffles or confrontations. The cranes used to unload container ships stood idle and few trucks were lined up outside gates.
Guillermo Durell, 45, a truck driver, was at the Los Angeles-area port of Long Beach. “I got up at 6 a.m. to drop a load off,” he said. “When I got here the security guard said ‘Drop this, but that’s it. We’re all leaving.’ ”
Mr. McEllrath said the walkout was not ordered by the union’s leadership, but was the result of a “democratic decision” made by the rank and file in February to demonstrate on May 1, a traditional day for labor activism.
He said employers were notified in advance of the plan, but refused to accommodate the union’s request, instead seeking the arbitrator’s ruling.
The longshore union and other labor groups are planning marches and rallies in various cities along the West Coast, and authorities in some location warned that these activities could snarl traffic during the evening commute. [For the original article, go here.]
Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Long Beach, Calif.