Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Associated Press
A barge pulls into a Seattle dock as container ships are
unloaded in the background last week. ILWU members on
the West Coast have been working without a contract since
Thursday. Work stoppages and slowdowns
began hitting ports yesterday.

Hawaii shipment
affected by West
Coast labor protest

An isle-bound ship leaves
Oakland without being loaded

Isle customers watching, waiting

By Russ Lynch


Some cargo bound for Hawaii missed the boat today, as International Longshore and Warehouse Union members refused to load and unload ships in the Port of Oakland.

An ILWU slowdown also was making trucks wait in line at the Los Angeles and Long Beach docks, shipping lines said.

Matson Navigation Co. said the one containership, the Kauai, it had scheduled to leave Oakland for Honolulu today left on time this morning but much of the cargo it was supposed to pick up at Oakland remained on the docks.

Sea-Land Service Inc. had two sailings scheduled from Oakland for Hawaii today but no information was available about the Hawaii-bound cargo late this morning.

The ILWU says the Oakland stoppage is over a local issue not connected with the ove rall, ongoing West Coast contract talks. There has been no suggestion of a strike, like the last West Coast-wide one that shut down Hawaii's ocean lifeline in 1971.

The latest action, however, is causing shippers to make some adjustments and, generally, cargo that wasn't loaded in Oakland by 7 a.m. yesterday morning, West Coast time, didn't get loaded.

Matson said its vessel has plenty of goods on board, but not from Oakland.

"The Kauai came from the Northwest so is a carrying a lot of Northwest c argo, but not much from Oakland," said Jeff Hull, a spokesman at Matson's San Francisco headquarters. Cargo from its other West Coast ports, Seattle and Los Angeles, has not been affected, he said today.

Matson will be adjusting its West Coast-Hawaii s chedule today and some neighbor island calls will change, too, he said.

Sea-Land Service officials at the company's headquarters in North Carolina said they were still trying to gather information on cargo scheduled to be aboard today's Oakland-Hawaii sailings of the Sea-Land Enterprise and the Sea-Land Challenger.

Sea-Land officials in Hawaii said there has been some impact but the company was exploring options and had no details to announce late this morning.

While the ILWU's international head quarters in San Francisco said the actions on the docks are not part of its attempts to get a new contract to replace the one that expired Thursday, shipping management representatives made it clear they think there is a connection.

"We deeply regret b etween the union decided to stage these actions at the California ports," said Joseph Miniace, president of the Pacific Maritime Association, the management group negotiating with the ILWU on behalf of more than 90 shipping and stevedoring companies.

"We proposed a total wage and benefits package that would make the West Coast longshore union members among the highest compensated union workers in America," Miniace said in a statement posted on the PMA Web site,

According to the PMA, waterfront pay to the ILWU members last year ranged from $99,016 for longshore workers, to $117,617 for clerks and $156,251 for foremen.

While maintaining its Oakland action is separate, the ILWU said today it is working without a contract and when its members demanded extra signalmen to help guide crane operators and the company refused, a walkout was the only action it could take.

"Manning and safety issues are stuff that people act on all the time," said Steve Stallone, a spokesman at the ILWU in ternational headquarters in San Francisco. There is an arbitration process in the contract, to resolve such disputes, but it isn't working now because there is no contract, he said.

"People take actions and try to enforce the safety rules themselves on the job," he said. The stoppage affects only the loading and unloading of ships and the port gates are open and trucks are free to come and go, delivering and removing cargo, he said.

Contract talks between the PMA and the ILWU, covering 14,500 dockwo rkers, clerks and other workers at all the ports on the West Coast, recessed Saturday for the July 4th weekend, with the ILWU promising to study the management proposals.

An independent waterfront commentator, George Cunningham of Long Beach, said in h is Cunningham Report that since there is no contract, "anything can happen."

"However, nobody seems to be preparing for an imminent strike," he said in the report posted today on the Internet, at "The feeling on both sides of the table has been optimistic throughout the final days of the negotiations and there had been hopes that a contract could be achieved before the long weekend."

At the start of the talks last month, both sides agreed not to make public statements about

progress or offers and demands. The PMA statement, however, does comment on two issues, pensions and medical plans.

The PMA said management offered a 32 percent increase in pension benefits for those workers who have yet to retire and a 15 percent ben efit hike for those who have already retired.

The union "expressed disappointment that we did not meet their 40 percent demand for previous retirees," the statement said.

The PMA said that in doing "everything possible to reach a contract agreement," t he companies offered the workers a new single coastwide medical plan with the companies paying 100 percent the premiums. That was the union's No.1 demand, the PMA said.

Safety issues, like those being protested in Oakland, are also on the table.

The co ntract that expired allowed union members to stop work whenever they perceive a safety problem.

The PMA seeks to eliminate that option, arguing that the union rank-and-file has used it to stage unauthorized work stoppages and slowdowns.

The statewide Hawaii contract with the ILWU is separate from the West Coast one and local negotiations are under way, the two sides said.

Isle customers
watching, waiting

By Peter Wagner


Honolulu retailers and suppliers today were keeping a wary eye on the West Coast, their lifeline to most goods that come into Hawaii.

"We have a four-page ad in the newspapers every month, so we anticipate things coming in," said Ron Ho, pre sident of Fisher Hawaii. "If there's a work stoppage and the goods don't come, our ads are wrong."

Oakland is second only to Los Angeles as a source of goods for Fisher, which receives five to six shipments a day and brings in half a million dollars in goods each month, virtually all from the West Coast. Even one missed shipment affects his business, Ho said.

"It's a matter of credibility. If you say something's going to be here it should be. We're a retail/wholesale outlet, so people come down here to shop and they expect things to be be in stock."

At Flemming Foodservice, which supplies most major supermarkets in Hawaii, executives are keeping a close eye on the situation. "We really don't see anything yet," said Steven Christensen, distric t manager at Flemming. "I don't think (today's disruptions will) affect us because of our inventory levels."

The company, which receives about 125 container-loads of food products a week, mostly from the West Coast, stocks about $23 million in goods. Christensen said he doesn't see any problem supplying his customers this week. He said smaller retailers might feel the pinch first, if the stoppage continues. He also noted perishable goods could pose a problem. "Everybody in the islands relies on West Coast shipments."

At Times Super Market, one of the supermarkets supplied by Flemming, president Wayne Teruya said it's too early to tell how the situation will affect his business. "When we first heard about it, they were still talking so there was nothing to be concerned about," Teruya said. "But now with this slowdown we have to keep an eye on it."

John Fujieki, president of Star Markets, today was concerned about the Oakland stoppage. "Whenever something like that happens it affect s the whole Hawaiian islands. Everybody has a shipment."

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