The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach are major shipping hubs. Every year 40 percent of the goods imported into the United States travels through these ports — much of the goods from Asia. At these ports, more than 10,000 workers are part of unloading and shipping these goods all over the United States.

Recently, dock workers — part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union — refused to work. These workers were refusing to cross the picket line of striking truck drivers at the ports. The dockworker’s strike shut down the two ports for two hours. Eventually, a federal mediator ordered the workers back to work under the contract that the dockworkers have with the Pacific Maritime Association.

However, this contract is set to expire soon. If the contract is not extended the dockworkers would be free to support the truck drivers in their strike. This could bring work at the ports to a stop. If the strike lasted long enough, it could affect the amount of consumer goods that are found in stores around the country.

Disputes between workers, unions and employers are not uncommon in California. Labor relations can become heated at any time and lead to a strike or prolonged contract negotiations. Employment laws have been passed to protect workers from mistreatment by their employers. These laws give unions some protections.

Workers who have pay and benefit issues, or other labor rights issues should make sure they understand all the options available to them during a dispute. In some situations, a legal remedy may be available. Furthermore, when workers’ rights are abused, workers may be entitled to compensation.

Source: KPCC, “LA ports: Labor strife and what it means to you,” Brian Watt, July 9, 2014