West Coast Port Strike Ends But Trucking Industry Impacted Far and Wideby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/06/2012
An eight day strike of about 800 employees at the nation's largest port affected a now estimated $1 billion of cargo per day, delayed thousands of workers without pay and slowed nearly 8000 truck drivers right down to no work at all. While strike workers can always count on union funds for aid, many others don't have anything to fall back on such as the independent truck drivers who are paid per haul. Although the strike is now concluded and truck drivers are back on the road, business has been slowed from California's Inland Logistic firms to the carriers and businesses they service stretching to the East.
The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports together were forecasted to handle almost a third of the nation's total container-packed shipments this year, but the clerical workers, paid $41 an hour, wanted assurances their positions wouldn’t be sent elsewhere when they got sick or retired. According to the union spokesman, Craig Merrilees, “Employers have been secretly and systematically sending dozens of positions to Taiwan and Texas and everywhere in between.” But the association representing the terminal operators argued the employer want flexibility in hiring workers only when there is something for them to do, and won't support keeping artificial staffing levels if they are not needed. After eight days and nights of negotiations the dispute was finally resolved and port operations have resumed.
However, many people such as American Pacific president Richard Bartolic sees it taking as many two weeks for goods movers and other affected companies to return to a normal pace of business and that the strike already prevented some truckers from earning their usual income. Mark Adams, general manager of Genesis Intermodal Delivery's operations on the West Coast, explains how the strike prevented their company from returning empty containers to Los Angeles and Long Beach. “It put some drivers out of work because we didn’t even have enough work to keep them busy”, Adams said. Such related delays affected many other transportation firms and have stretched across the supply chains delaying shipments across the entire country for at least one week.
A labor dispute in Los Angeles might seem far removed to directly impact anyone in other states, especially as far away as Oklahoma. But Oklahoma based truck driver, Steve Herbert explains how the effects of the port strike have already caused significant damage to some of his colleagues. "I do have friends that do go to the port and they have been directly affected in the aspect of a couple of them lost their jobs," he said. But Jeff Jones, Vice President for the Oklahoma Trucking Association feels that while a long-term dispute would certainly escalate into more problems down the road, the short-term strike effects on Oklahoma truckers will be minimal.
Since the dispute ended, the ports have been overloaded with backed-up containers and more ships waiting to unload. As business begins to resume, it looks like truck drivers are getting back on the road with enough to keep them running for a while.