Media Doing Their Best to Hide What Happened

Oakland

The troubled Port of Oakland was shut down in protest and the media did their best to bury news of the disruption. The good part is that the port is currently up and running again. The bad news is that the ongoing pay dispute threatens a full-fledged longshoreman’s strike, up and down the California coast. The timing is especially terrible because the rail workers are also about to go on strike.

Port of Oakland open, for now

Mainstream news outlets are doing their best to hide what happened on Wednesday, November 2, at the Port of Oakland.

All three of their shipping terminals had been idled “after International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job.” The contract dispute is ongoing but the union made its point and let workers back in at 6 PM for the night shift.

The core of the issue seems to be a “pay dispute.” Over the past several weeks “there has been a slowdown of Port of Oakland marine terminal operations caused by a shortage of ship clerks that is related to the dispute.

Normally, that would automatically go to arbitration but they can’t do that this time. It’s because they don’t have an actual contract right now, the last one expired on July 1. The ILWU “has been working without a contract and therefore the arbitration option isn’t on the table.

Nobody wants to shut the port down yet again so they kept working, even without a contract, while they negotiate.

Those negotiations didn’t seem to be getting anywhere so they decided to use Oakland for a little demonstration of what they could be doing. They only took one shift off. Closing all of California’s ports cold would be a disaster to the economy.

A powerful point

The Oakland walk-off made “an incredibly powerful point.” All they want is a fair deal with the Pacific Maritime Association. “We’ve been trying, since July, to get a contract with the PMA,” explains longshoreman Keith Shanklin.

Walking off now is perfectly within their legal rights because they don’t have any contract at all. “We’ve been faithfully working, even through the pandemic, without any stoppage.” Being nice isn’t working all that great.

The PMA dug in and they don’t have nice things to say about the Oakland mini-strike. The “apparent attempt to try to exact leverage in local negotiations is counterproductive,” they state. Meanwhile, truckers like Bill Aboudi is caught in the middle.

The California trucking industry in general is in panic mode over their new AB5 law. That virtually puts all the independent drivers out of work until they can hire on with a company for wages subject to tax withholding. Even those who can drive legally, couldn’t move anything in or out of the port. “This one day disruption, basically takes us a week to recover from,” Aboudi relates.

Between the looming rail strike and the closure of all the west coast ports, including Oakland, “Everything is gonna stop,” Aboudi warns. “The backlog, anything that comes off the water that needs to go on the road, from the rail to the water, is not moving.

Despite the major looming supply chain crisis, Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg is nowhere to be found.

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