By  on August 23, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Terminal operations at the Port of Los Angeles were shut down for several hours Tuesday morning when longshoremen, in a show of support for a striking city union, walked off the job.

The Engineers & Architects Association union, which has 227 members working at the city's port department, launched a two-day protest strike Tuesday after the Los Angeles City Council enforced a union-opposed contract. The council's action ended a nearly three-year contractual impasse.

The union has about 8,000 members in various city departments, including 575 who are employees of Los Angeles' four airports, the largest of which is LAX. At the airports, there were scattered reports of picketers, but a spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the airports, said, "Everything seems to be very normal, and it has been all day. It doesn't appear that any of the cargo operations are affected."

At the port, longshoremen, members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, stopped work in the early morning hours to join EAA members, who began picketing terminal facilities around 7 a.m. The move effectively shuttered terminal operations for about four hours, according to a statement issued by the city department that manages the port. The statement asserts that longshoremen returned to their jobs at 11 a.m. after the Pacific Maritime Association, which the port describes as "the employing entity for the labor on the container terminals," called for an arbitrator to determine if the longshoremen's action was legal. The arbitrator ordered the workers to cease picketing.

A spokeswoman for the port said the order is in effect for both days of the two-day strike and she did not expect further labor action by the longshoremen during the EAA effort. Natalie Dix, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Action Freight International Inc., said she is monitoring the EAA's labor activity, but has not detected a significant effect.

Robert Krieger, president of logistics firm Krieger Worldwide, said, "It is probably a minor disruption at this point." However, any work stoppage at the port recalls the longshoreman labor dispute of 2002 that effectively shut down the port and caused firms to rethink their import plans.

"A few major companies decided at that point that they were not going to put all their eggs in one basket," Krieger said. "They decided to have a couple of different methods for bringing in their product from Asia."Still, even if the EAA action is wrapped up Wednesday, Krieger said it is possible that those sending shipments "may find that [they] may be late a couple of days."

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