News / USA

Workers Return to Jobs at Huge US Port Complex

Mike O'Sullivan
An eight-day strike that crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has ended, restoring the flow of goods through the major trade gateway between the United States and Asia. The strike had a limited impact, but it disrupted the trade flow and its effects will linger.
Eight days of picketing by harbor clerks and other union supporters left trucks idled and billions of dollars in goods stuck in containers.  

Late Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a tentative settlement. “I think it's appropriate to say mission accomplished," he said. 
The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40 percent of US imports. 
They are vital to businessman Charlie Woo. His company, MegaToys, manufactures goods in China and assembles and packages them in Los Angeles.   His Christmas stock has already shipped out to stores, but he had 30 containers of seasonal goods for Valentines Day and Easter sitting at the ports. They're valued at $1 million. 
“I have quite a bit of merchandise backed up and we would probably have to hire more people to work overtime to catch up so that we can meet our delivery schedule," he said. 
Labor unions say the key issue was the outsourcing of jobs after workers retire.  It's part of a wider concern about jobs leaving the country, as Sal Chavez, a port worker, explained during the strike.
“I mean, the jobs have been going left and right out of the country, and nobody's doing anything about it.  Somebody has to step forward and say, we need to keep these jobs in America," he said. 
Losses from the strike are uncertain, but economists say they are much lower than the 10-day shutdown of all West Coast US ports 10 years ago. That labor lockout cost the US economy $15 billion.
Charlie Woo says he can handle his losses from this strike, in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Port workers are now back on the job, but he says the impact of the work stoppage continues.  
“The situation is going to take a while to sort out because, for every ship that's docked outside Los Angeles, they're not able to go back to China to pick up more merchandise in two or three weeks time.  So the whole schedule will be disrupted," he said. 
He says port strikes undermine the competitive advantage of his Los Angeles company, which normally enjoys lower shipping costs than his rivals in other parts of the country. 

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