By Stuart Pfeifer
10:35 AM PST, December 4, 2012
Both sides in the strike that has crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have agreed to federal mediation, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday at a news conference.
Villaraigosa said the agreement was an encouraging sign and could help bring an end to the strike, now in its eighth day. He said the parties negotiated throughout the night and there had been some recent movement.
“I’m hopeful that the mediator will be here today,” Villaraigosa told reporters. “We’ve got to get a deal and get a deal as soon as possible.”
Workers belonging to the 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit have been on strike since Nov. 27 against a 14-employer group of shipping lines and terminal owners. The picket lines are being honored by the 10,000 regional members of the ILWU. Add in local truckers, and some 20,000 workers are affected, Villaraigosa estimated.
The strike has shut down 10 of the 14 cargo container terminals at the nation's busiest seaport complex. The clerical workers had been without a contract since June 30, 2010.
The strike is considered potentially disastrous for the Southern California economy because the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the leading contributors to the region's goods-movement industry, which employs nearly 600,000 people.
The dispute centers on the charge by the union that employers — large shipping lines and terminal operators — have steadily outsourced jobs through attrition. The union says the employers have transferred work from higher-paid union members to lower-paid employees in other states and countries.
The employers dispute that claim, saying they've offered the workers full job security and generous wage and pension increases.
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