LOS ANGELES —
The companies had argued that previous rules requiring them to fill positions even when the workload didn’t justify it amounted to union featherbedding.
However, “compromise is necessary to get people back to work,” said Steve Getzug of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which is representing management.
Port officials estimated that roughly $760 million worth of cargo a day failed to move through the ports during the walkout. Some 20 ships diverted to other ports in California and Mexico while others scheduled to reach Southern California simply didn’t sail.
A full account of all of the goods affected was not immediately available; holiday items had arrived weeks ago.
Days of negotiations that included all-night bargaining sessions suddenly went from a stalemate to big leaps of progress by Tuesday. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the sides were already prepared to take a vote when the mediators arrived.
The strike began when 450 members of the ILWU’s local clerical workers unit walked off their jobs. The clerks had been working without a contract for more than two years.
The walkout quickly closed 10 of the ports’ 14 terminals when some 10,000 dockworkers, members of different unit of the same union, refused to cross picket lines.
Even though the deal was reached soon after their arrival, the federal mediators said they had little to do with the solution.
“In the final analysis, it worked. The parties reached their own agreement,” said George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. “There is no question in my mind that collective bargaining is the best example of industrial democracy in action.”
During the strike, both sides said salaries, vacation, pensions and other benefits were not a major issue.
The clerks, who make an average base salary of $87,000 a year, have some of the best-paying blue-collar jobs in the nation. When vacation, pension and other benefits are factored in, the employers said, their annual compensation package reached $165,000 a year.