Skeletal picket teams of just one or two union members per cargo terminal are maintaining a strike vigil amid sporadic rain showers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Friday morning.
This is mainly a fight pitting the small, roughly 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit against some of the world's largest shipping lines and terminal operators.
The union accuses management of trying to outsource jobs. The employers accuse the union of featherbedding, and say they are rejecting a pact that would offer an average salary of up to $195,000 a year.
The small union has managed to shut down operations because they have been backed by the larger ILWU's 10,000 Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers, which negotiate their labor contract separately and are honoring the picket lines.
Talks aimed at a new labor contract resumed Thursday night and continued late, said sources on both sides. Talks were set to resume again sometime Friday afternoon.
The Clerical Unit union's labor contract expired more than two years ago. They handle the vast amounts of paperwork needed to move cargo containers out of the port and onto trains and rail lines across the U.S.
A growing chorus of elected officials and retail trade associations have strongly urged both sides to resolve their differences because the ports normally handle 40% of the nation's Asian imports. They also export far more U.S. goods than any other seaport in the nation.
Jock O'Cconnell, an international trade economist who works as an advisor to Beacon Economics, said that the ports strike was having a serious economic impact.
"Extrapolating from last November's trade flows through the San Pedro Bay ports, the port closures are stranding an estimated $1.125 billion worth of merchandise a day," O'Connell said.
John Husing, founder of the Redlands firm Economics and Politics, also warned that the ports were a vital employment engine that fuels 595,000 jobs in Southern California.
At Long Beach, port officials said their SSAT container terminal at Pier A, their SSA/Matson container terminal at Pier C, and their Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J are operating. At Los Angeles, only the TraPac container terminal is still operating.