About 6,000 community members and International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers made their way Thursday from the Vincent Thomas Bridge to the Maritime Museum to support hundreds of Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers engaged in contentious contract talks with employers.
Led by Banning High School students, ILWU members, their spouses, friends, children, and, in some cases, even family dogs marched down Harbor Boulevard along the San Pedro waterfront and Port of Los Angeles during Thursday’s sunset, carrying signs that read: “We support the ILWU and they support us.”
Steve Gebhart, principal of Dana Middle School in San Pedro, said he joined the march with his family because he feels strongly about the issue.
“A lot of my students’ families depend on the union,” Gebhart said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino organized the march more than a week after the employers, the Pacific Maritime Association, suspended night shifts for unloading ships to focus efforts on moving cargo containers out of congested yards. The decision affected more than 800 jobs, according to the ILWU.
Jerry Ancich, 57, of San Pedro operates cranes at the port and said he’s recently lost a lot of hours.
“The manning of the machines has been cut back so ships are just anchored out in the bay,” Ancich said. “Work opportunities are slim. It’s very hard to get a job.”
Buscaino, who represents the harbor area, has criticized the employers’ decision, saying that cutting night shifts “is another step closer to a lockout” that would hurt residents and make port congestion worse.
“We say to the PMA, ‘Let the ILWU do their jobs,’ ” Buscaino said at the rally. “We say this to the PMA, ‘Let the ILWU clear our ports. … Do not stand in their way.’ Our economy’s here in the harbor.”
Assemblyman Mike Gipson also expressed his frustration about PMA’s decision. “I’ll be damned if we sit by and watch this happen to our country when our country needs each and every one of you on the docks, moving the goods, making sure America is put back to work.”
Thursday’s event highlighted what has been tough, drawn-out negotiations between the PMA and ILWU, who have been trying to hammer out a contract since May. The previous contract ended in July. The new agreement would cover 20,000 dockworkers at 29 ports along the West Coast including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
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