Oakland Port Labor Dispute Will Be Test for New Arbitration System
Formal arbitration begins soon for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association concerning an incident that shut down the largest container terminal in Oakland during a single shift. The proceedings will be watched closely by unions and employers along the coast, as it will be the first significant test using the new arbitration system that became the cornerstone of the coast-wide ILWU-PMA contract last year.
Following the event that caused the shutdown, Oakland International Container Terminal was forced to dig itself out of the backlog of truck congestions. Work resumed later that night, but there were still long lines the following day.
The terminal is operated by SSA Marine, who has had an arrangement with ILWU Local 10 for decades that allows operators of cranes and other cargo-handling equipment to arrive 20 minutes prior to their shift to perform safety inspections and turn on equipment. This ensures operations are able to begin as soon as the general longshoremen arrive when the official shift begins. Under the agreement, equipment operators receive an extra hour of pay.
In the incident in question, Local 10 officers instructed the equipment operators to not report earlier on this specific day. SSA fired the equipment operators for the shift since they were not there and other works at the terminal slowed down or walked off in solidarity with the equipment operators.
The arbitration will determine whether or not the workers get their jobs back and how the entire situation will be handled. This new process was put in place to discourage frivolous challenges by either party concerning the contract and the rules, and to resolve challenges as quickly as possible.