Oakland Port Shuts Down as Labor Talks Continue

at 9:00 AM
 (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Longshore workers shut down the port of Oakland on Thursday in order to attend a union meeting amid the ongoing labor dispute that is affecting dozens of West Coast seaports. Workers and ship owners renewed negotiations Tuesday with the arrival of Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ship owners, estimates that 12.5 percent of the United States' gross domestic product comes from cargo out of West Coast ports. We'll get the latest on the dispute.

Show Highlights

On Why Taft-Hartley Hasn't Been Invoked

"The president has to declare a national emergency and it would probably only occur if and when there was a lock down or a strike, and we're not there yet."

- Eric Kulisch

On the Remaining Sticking Point

Guests:

Bill Mongelluzzo, senior editor for the Journal of Commerce

Harley Shaiken, professor of geography and director of the Center for Latin American Studies

Sean Randolph, senior director at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute

Eric Kulisch, trade and transportation editor, American Shipper Magazine

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"There were very tough issues in these negotiations that have been going on for nine months. They've all been resolved: wages, pensions, health care, perhaps the length of the contract. Everything now is being held up a single issue – how to get rid of arbitrators if they are not serving the interest of both parties. Now the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), that is the shipping lines and the port operators, they want to keep the present system in place, which means that to get rid of an arbitrator both sides have to agree. What the union would like to see is that either side at the end of the contract would be able to veto the arbitrator and then they would both have to select a new one. ... It's important to both sides because the arbitrators, there are four of them for the West Coast, essentially interpret the contract where there are serious disputes over the next five or six years.

The question is there's a huge amount of economic damage both locally, in the state and nationally, as the result of failing to come together on this issue. … From what inside sources appear to be saying the PMA is really resistant because all of this seems to center on one arbitrator who was originally suggested by the union.

- Harley Shaiken

On Who the Strike is Affecting

"The companies that are affected cross a wide range of industries. We just all assume everyday that we go to the store, we pick up our fruit, we buy whatever we want off the shelf, but it came from somewhere. And a lot of that has come in by ship,mostly from Asia.

So we have companies that have glass products up in Sonoma County that can't get the glass in that's imported from the Czech Republic and so they're letting employees go. They can't ship - they can't produce their goods. We have small retailers who need to stock their shelves - they can't stock the shelves. And we also have especially we don't think of it in the Bay Area so much, but the Port of Oakland is a major outlet for shipments of agricultural goods from the Central Valley of California. That's a lot of fruit, that's a lot of vegetables. We have citrus producers who - whose lemons are are rotting on the trees. They are being stored, they have no capacity to store them further, so they're going to miss those shipments. It's a blow for ag producers in the Valley who are already suffering from a drought. So major, major impacts for agricultural exporters, almond exporters, citrus exporters, retailers who need imports, and producers who need imports to produce what they produce."

- Sean Randolph