The employee walkout that closed several terminals at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday was over by the time the evening shift began. A spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) confirmed that the protesting workers took action as a local chapter, rather than as representatives of the entire union. Their chapter, Local 34, acts on behalf of marine clerks at the port.
Sean Farley, president of Local 34, said the workers’ walkout had “nothing to do with the contract itself,” meaning the agreement that is currently being negotiated by the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association for 22 ports on the US West Coast.
Instead, he said, they were protesting over wages not being paid on time. California publication SFGate said Farley indicated that “among 240 clerks, there are more than 200 outstanding wage claims dating back to June. Some clerks are only owed a few hours of work, according to Farley, but others are owed more than $1,000.”
“It doesn’t seem to get any better unless we directly confront the employers,” said Farley. “They’re cutting back their wages after they already worked. And that’s unacceptable. Nobody works for free.”
Because ILWU members are working without a contract – their previous contract with PMA expired on July 1 – the Local 34 members are not able to seek arbitration to resolve this issue.
A statement on Wednesday from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the West Coast ports, said, “Taking an action to shut down the port impacts workers and businesses far beyond the terminals themselves. Discussions with Local 34 took place today. This apparent attempt to try to exact leverage in local negotiations is counterproductive.”