LOS ANGELES — With labor unrest looming at West Coast ports, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told thousands of union workers Monday to “stand your ground.”
President Bush, who has been considering possible federal intervention in case of a walkout, “wants to make an example of you,” Jackson said during a Labor Day picnic in a Wilmington park a few miles from the Port of Los Angeles.
Mayor James Hahn sent the president a letter Monday urging him to stay out of the conflict between 10,500 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers.
“Federal intervention at this critical juncture is not needed and may well exacerbate the dispute,” Hahn wrote.
The contract for workers who handle trade at 29 major West Coast ports expired July 1. Both sides had kept goods flowing with short-term extensions but the latest extension expired Sunday.
Without a deal, dockworkers could stage work slowdowns as early as Tuesday. Shipping lines that employ the dockworkers have threatened a lockout.
The ports handle more than $300 billion in trade annually, and a work stoppage would ripple through an already fragile American economy.
Talk of a strike or a lockout was the main topic as union workers ranging from dockworkers to pipefitters to schoolteachers joined in the solidarity rally.
“If there is no contract, there will be no business as usual at California’s ports,” said Jerry Acosta, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO.
On average, a full-time longshoreman earned $80,000 last year and a full-time foreman averaged $167,000, according to maritime association records.
The sticking points for a new contract are arbitration, new technology that could costs jobs and health benefits.