* Port strike at Los Angeles and Long Beach enters sixth day
* Industry groups fear prolonged dispute could spread to
* Lobbyists pressure White House, lawmakers to intervene
By Tim Reid and Steve Gorman
Dec 2 A national coalition of U.S. business
groups is urging an end to a strike at the twin California ports
of Los Angeles and Long Beach amid fears that a prolonged
stand-off will cost the American economy many billions of
dollars, and could even spread to the east coast.
Trade groups led by the National Retail Federation have sent
letters to U.S. President Barack Obama and leading members of
Congress asking them to intervene and help end the strike at
America's two busiest container harbor facilities. Those
industry groups say the strike, which entered its sixth day on
Sunday, is already costing $1 billion a day.
The labor dispute has been triggered by 500 clerical workers
at the ports, members of the relatively small Office of Clerical
Union Workers. Their industrial action and clout has been
significantly strengthened because some 10,000 members of the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union have supported them,
refusing to cross the clerical workers' picket lines.
Their action has effectively shut down 10 of the two ports'
combined 14 container terminals. Four other container terminals
have remained opened, along with facilities for handling
break-bulk cargo such as raw steel and tanker traffic.
Industry groups say they have fresh memories of a 10-day
lockout at West Coast ports in 2002. They estimate that dispute
cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day and that it took six
months before the supply chains fully recovered.
Groups are also warily monitoring an ongoing labor dispute
between the International Longshoremen's Association and the
U.S. Maritime Alliance which could affect ports from Maine to
The employment contract between the two groups expired at
the end of September without a new agreement. The contract was
temporarily extended for 90 days, until the end of this year. A
federal mediator has stepped in to oversee negotiations to try
an avert a strike that would hit at least 14 ports along the
East and Gulf coasts.
"Our members are very nervous and very upset about the
impact of the (Los Angeles) strike on their businesses," said
Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy
at the National Retail Federation.
"We have had a lot of feedback. They have very fresh
memories of what happened in 2002 and what is happening on the
Gold said his organization has been working with groups
including the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the
Retail Industry Leaders Industry Association and the Harbor
Truckers Association to pressure lawmakers in Washington to end
The NRF sent a letter to Obama last week asking him to
intervene. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, California's two
Democratic senators, have also urged both sides to resolve the
Negotiations ran late into Saturday and continued Sunday.
The clerks had been without a contract for more than two years
when labor talks with management broke off on Monday. The chief
stumbling block has been the future of union representation for
jobs that are lost through retirement.
ILWU leaders are demanding that jobs traditionally performed
by their members remain classified as union work and subject to
the union's contract terms, even after individuals holding those
jobs retire. They accuse the management of seeking to outsource
union clerical jobs to overseas workers paid far less in wages
The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container
harbor facility, and second-ranked Long Beach together handled
more than $400 billion in goods arriving or leaving the West
Coast by ship, L.A. port spokesman Philip Sanfield said.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)