U.S. Labor Secretary issues Friday deadline to resolve West Coast port dispute

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez reportedly issued an ultimatum, telling both sides in the West Coast port labor dispute that they need to reach a deal by Friday or move talks to Washington D.C.

Negotiators for the Pacific Maritime Association's 70 West Coast port operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are preparing for another round of negotiations Friday with Secretary Perez, after working late into the night Thursday.

Negotiators ended talks and left PMA's 555 Market Street headquarters in San Francisco about 9:30 p.m.

Sources tell KTVU that both sides were sending proposals back and forth.

Billions of dollars of cargo remain stuck at the Port of Oakland and the 28 other West Coast ports.

Longshore workers were off the job Thursday to attend a union meeting during the dayside shift, and port operators have refused to schedule night shifts to avoid paying overtime during what they call an intentional work slowdown.

Twelve ships were stuck at berth in Oakland Thursday while another 15 had to drop anchor and wait.

"We need a settlement immediately. We need it now. We can't wait any longer. Our customers can't wait any longer," said Mike Zampa, a Port of Oakland spokesman.

On Thursday, A major shipping company Hapag-Lloyd announced it will steer clear of West Coast ports, cancelling most trips for the next three months.

No dock workers meant no business Thursday for many store and restaurant owners, including Nellie's Soul Food restaurant.

"Not one guy came through, not one," said Quinette Ozen, who owns the family-run business near the Port of Oakland, "We need these people back working. They need to come to an agreement... and we got to live."

Pressure came from local mayors. San Francisco mayor Ed Lee said Thursday, "We try our very best not to have non-economic issues be at the forefront of disagreement. We should be able to work that out."

More pressure came from California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who sent a letter to both sides Thursday, urging a resolution.

"The only issue that stands between further damage to our economy and a contract agreeable to both parties is the choice of an arbitrator," the Senators' letter stated.

"It is highly disappointing that with so much at stake, you have not been able to come up with a path forward," the letter continued.

Port of Oakland officials say they expect the dock workers to resume work Friday, but they say the PMA and ILWU's prolonged nine-month labor dispute, is coming at a deep cost.

"Worldwide supply chains are being disrupted. This can't happen again or shippers globally will lose faith in the supply chain," Zampa told KTVU.