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LA ports reopen after crippling 8-day strike ends

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm •  Published: December 5, 2012
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The deal, reached late Tuesday night, must still be ratified by union membership, but both sides expect that to happen in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, gates reopened at the ports and thousands of workers got busy unloading everything from cars to clothing, and television sets to computers from ships that had been idling in the ocean. Goods were placed on trains and trucks, to be delivered across the country.

"It's going to take a few days, maybe a week or two to get back to normal," said Long Beach port spokesman Art Wong.

During negotiations, shippers fought vigorously against the job guarantees, maintaining that would force them to keep people on the payroll that weren't needed.

Ultimately, they compromised to end the devastating strike that shut down 10 of the 14 terminals at the ports and cost the region billions of dollars.

"At the end of the day, it was important to reach compromise to get people back to work, and we agree the deal will extend growth at the ports," said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represented the shipping companies.

In just a week, the strike had begun to create concerns there would be shortages of everything from retail merchandise needed for next month's post-holiday sales to repair parts for Redbox video kiosks.

Christmas merchandise had already arrived before the strike began.

During the walkout, officials estimated roughly $760 million worth of cargo a day failed to move through the ports. Twenty ships headed to other ports in California and Mexico, while some simply didn't sail from their home ports. Still others idled at sea.

Clerical workers walked out Nov. 27 after working without a contract for 30 months.

Although the strikers numbered only about 450, thousands of dockworkers represented by a sister union refused to cross the picket lines, stalling work at the complex that handles 44 percent of all container traffic that arrives in the U.S. by sea.

The new contract calls for a $1 an hour raise immediately and another $1 an hour bump next year, with raises in the contract's third and fourth years still to be determined. Employees will also receive $4,000 lump sum payments for the 30 months they worked without a contract.

Their pension benefits will increase slightly, and their vacation and health benefits will remain unchanged.

When their contract expires in 2016, Merrilees said, they should expect to face the outsourcing issue again.

"This problem is one that's rampant across the country," he said. "It's great that port workers were able to get this problem in these ports subject to more controls, but meanwhile the impacts of outsourcing are still being felt across the country."

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Associated Press writer Robert Jablon contributed to this story.