Negotiations resume as port strike enters 6th day

Talks in the six-day-old strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have resumed. A coalition of US business groups is urging a swift end to the work stoppage.

LOS ANGELES — Contract talks between clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and shippers have resumed as the strike entered a sixth day on Sunday.

The walkout has dramatically slowed activity at the nation's busiest cargo complex as dockworkers refuse to cross picket lines set up by union clerical workers. Their industrial action and clout has been significantly strengthened because some 10,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have supported them, refusing to cross the clerical workers' picket lines.

The clerical workers began striking Tuesday to raise the ante in a 2 1/2-year-old contract battle over claims that management had been outsourcing their well-paid jobs out of state and overseas.

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 shippers and terminal operators, denies the allegation. They say they have offered lifelong job security to the 600 or so full-time clerical workers.

A national coalition of U.S. business groups is urging an end to the strike amid fears that a prolonged stand-off will cost the American economy many billions of dollars, and could even spread to the east coast.

Trade groups led by the National Retail Federation have sent letters to U.S. President Barack Obama and leading members of Congress asking them to intervene and help end the strike at America's two busiest container harbor facilities. Those industry groups say the strike is already costing $1 billion a day.

The groups say they have fresh memories of a 10-day lockout at West Coast ports in 2002. They estimate that dispute cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day and that it took six months before the supply chains fully recovered.

Groups are also warily monitoring an ongoing labor dispute between the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance which could affect ports from Maine to Texas.

"Our members are very nervous and very upset about the impact of the (Los Angeles) strike on their businesses," said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

"We have had a lot of feedback. They have very fresh memories of what happened in 2002 and what is happening on the east coast."

Gold said his organization has been working with groups including the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Industry Association and the Harbor Truckers Association to pressure lawmakers in Washington to end the stand-off.