3. December 2012 15:36
On November 27, ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit struck the international carriers serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The dockworkers quickly demonstrated their support by honoring the picket lines, and the net effect has been the shutdown of 10 terminals at the country's major ports. The 800 clerks are objecting the outsourcing of some of their positions to employees overseas. The negotiations have been going on for two years, but the situation finally came to a head last month.
While this work stoppage will not have the full impact of the September / October 2002 strike, at least as far as Christmas is concerned, it could cause some serious disruption in supply chains. With most firms carrying smaller inventories, some will find it necessary to use faster, more expensive transportation to meet their commitments and fill their inventory needs.
The National Retail Federation has asked the White House to intervene and restart negotiations, but at least two California Congresswomen have made statements in support of the union. This could encourage the clerks, who are mostly women, to dig their heels in.
If that were not enough, there is a good chance that the ILA will initiate a work stoppage at ports on the East and Gulf Coasts. An extension on their contract expires in less than a month, and management and labor are oceans apart, no pun intended.
Unfortunately, this is another one of those "everybody loses" situations. The strikers lose income, the carriers and ports lose revenue, and consumers end up paying higher prices. Given the state of the economy, this is not a good recipe for a "Merry Christmas."