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West Coast port labor talks resume today

Los Angeles — A strike by some truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has added a bit of drama this week to contract talks between West Coast dockworkers and terminal operators, but reports indicate all West Coast ports are continuing to operate even though the dockworkers’ latest labor contract expired July 1.

Talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Assn. are scheduled to resume today following a three-day break to allow union officials to attend unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.

The truck drivers’ strike, which began Monday at four shipping terminals, briefly shut down the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports when ILWU members refused to cross the truckers’ picket lines. However, longshoremen returned to work after only a few hours off the job when an arbitrator ruled the dockworkers’ contract didn’t allow them to engage in a sympathy strike,   according to the Los Angeles Times.

The truckers, who are not represented by the ILWU, claim they are illegally classified as independent contractors and not employees — a designation that means employers don’t have to pay Social Security taxes and unemployment insurance premiums for them, among other things.

Gene Winters, president of Global Link Logistics, said the truckers strike has not affected his company’s operations, but said the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports continue to be very congested because of increased shipments leading up to the ILWU contract expiration and a shortage of chassis.

“All carriers are experiencing chassis shortages at the port, and you can’t pick up a container without a chassis,” said Winters, whose company has numerous furniture industry customers.

The labor contract covers more than 14,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports. Both sides have pledged to continue talks without a work stoppage.

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