Harbor Commission Votes to Move Forward with Automation

  • 06/27/2019
  • Reporters Desk

On June 20, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with automation at Pier 400 at the Port of Los Angeles, denying the appeal by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to rescind Maersk’s permitting request. Councilman Joe Buscaino submitted a request to the Los Angeles City Council to overturn the Harbor Commission’s decision using a 245 charter action to review and possibly over rule the Harbor Commission. If that happens, the issue will be sent back to the Harbor Commissioners for a reconsideration or reversal of their vote.

At the June 25 meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn introduced a motion requiring the Los Angeles chief executive office to conduct an economic impact analysis of port automation, including how many jobs will be lost and then to report back in 90 days. In addition, Hahn asked the supervisors to send a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council expressing support of the ILWU’s efforts to stop job losses.

“Maersk responded with a letter stating that no matter what the Los Angeles City Council decides, they will move forward with automation at POLA. Maersk claims they will use diesel powered equipment if the city council does not approve their permit. The permit will allow the company to build infrastructure for electric equipment.”

In January, POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka, issued a coastal development permit to APM Terminals allowing the company to prepare Pier 400 for automation. They included charging stations for electric and battery powered vehicles, a vertical racking system and Wi-Fi antennas.

Jaime L. Lee, president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, said that the coastal development permit the port issued to APM fits into the port’s master plan, a set of policies and guidelines for the Port of Los Angeles.

“There is no requirement for a level one CDP to create jobs,” Lee said. “There is also no requirement, or bar, for losing them.”

More than 400 members of the ILWU and community members present at the harbor commission meeting loudly protested Lee’s comments and the following 3-2  decision. They stood up and turned their backs to the board while the board made its final vote.

“Automation is cancer for workers,” said Ray Familathe, vice president of the ILWU. He said that whenever automation is introduced at ports, job losses were as high as 90 percent. Familathe also said that the union could be losing 500 eight-hour shifts per day.

Depending on the shifts that are available, full time union members get first pick, and part time workers known as “casuals”, who are not full members of the union, get the shifts that are left over. Even among full time union members, there are some members that are consistently chosen by the companies that work with the ILWU, who are known as steady men.

POLA Commissioner Diane L. Middleton vehemently disagreed with the majority.

“Environmental impacts absolutely must include decimation of the workforce,” Middleton said.

Middleton argued that using automation would hurt productivity. She also said that this permit did not fit the definition of a level one CDP, as level one CDPs were meant to cause minor changes to the port.

Both Middleton and Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi voted to approve the ILWU’s appeal. Commissioner Renwick voted against it even after calling the application “deficient.”

Immediately following the meeting, Buscaino stood up in front of the remaining ILWU workers gathered to tell them it was not over, and that he would appeal the board’s decision to City Hall.

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