Cargo ships stack up as LA port strike in 7th day

Cargo ships

Freighters with no place to unload cargo lined up at anchorages off Los Angeles and Long Beach for a seventh day on Monday as shippers and striking clerks resumed talks to end a labor dispute that has idled most of America's biggest container port complex.

With mounting economic losses estimated at several billion dollars, the strike marks the largest cargo traffic disruption at the twin Southern California harbor facilities since a 10-day lockout of longshoremen at several West Coast ports in 2002. Unlike the labor clash a decade ago, which took place in the fall, the latest dispute is unfolding after the busy pre-holiday shipping season, limiting the scope of its ripple effect. Major U.S. retailers, including Target and Home Depot, said they have so far been largely unaffected by the strike because the bulk of their Christmastime inventory has already made it to store shelves.

But the National Retail Federation has asked President Barack Obama to intervene, warning that a prolonged strike could have a "devastating impact on the U.S. Economy." The brunt of the latest dispute at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together account for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. cargo container imports, has been borne mostly by dock workers and truckers in the region. Terminal operators also worry about lost business as some cargo is diverted to competing ports. Striking port clerks remained at loggerheads on Monday with shippers and terminal owners over the future of union representation for clerical jobs after employees retire. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 has so far resisted calls for outside mediation.

The 800-member clerical workers unit of the ILWU local walked off the job on Tuesday, with some 10,000 longshoremen and other union members refusing to cross picket lines, forcing a shutdown at 10 of the twin ports' 14 container terminals.

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