The nine-day strike by International Longshore and Warehouse Union clerks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has tentatively ended with a new contract with the Harbor Employers Association. If approved by the union’s membership, the pact will expire in 2016.
It was tempting to joke that the strike was a case of deja vu all over again – if the stakes weren’t so high for the port clerks’ Local 63. The sticking point was the outsourcing of jobs offsite, an issue that many thought was resolved with the local’s 2007 contract with port employers. Technology has made such job migration possible – and desirable — for shipping companies and terminal operators. Since the ILWU’s historic pivot in 1960 toward accepting labor-saving mechanization in exchange for greater member benefits and job security, the union has shown a consistent ability to accept and adapt to technology – even while that acceptance has reduced its membership.