Dec. 4 - The California port strike enters its second week amid fresh negotiations but the economic losses are adding up to several billion dollars during the busy pre-holiday shipping season. Conway G. Gittens reports.
It's eerily quiet at this Long Beach, California port except for a few protesters, as a workers' strike drags on into a second week. The two-sides are willing to sit down with a federal mediator, but the strike is still costing the U.S. economy up to $1 billion a day, according to some estimates. Chris Lytle is executive director of the Port of Long Beach: SOUNDBITE: CHRIS LYTLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT OF LONG BEACH (ENGLISH) SAYING: "All cargo coming into the port is stopped, not only on the land side but on the port side. We start to have ships at anchor. All of the directly impacted workers are not working, but then the other ancillary business, the trucking, the warehouses, the logistics. All of those workers aren't working. That ripples out to every place that we touch." Combined with its neighbor, the Port of Los Angeles, the two make up the world's sixth busiest port and America's biggest container complex, responsible for 40 percent of cargo imports, valuing more than $400 billion last year. REPORTER STAND-UP: CONWAY G. GITTENS, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "One expert I spoke to says the strike presents a logistical headache. The products will make it to U.S. shores, but will have to be diverted through Mexico, Canada, or the Panama Canal. That means two things: extra money and extra time - so the unfinished products on those cargo ships, will take longer to get to manufacturers, and in turn the manufacturers will take longer to get supplies to their customers." So, retailers looking to re-stock just-in-time orders may not have them just-in-time if holiday demand is stronger than expected, leading to a warning from the National Retail Federation. But union worker Sal Chavez says this fight goes beyond the holiday shopping season. SOUNDBITE: SAL CHAVEZ, PICKETING UNION PORT WORKER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We have two and a half years without a contract. The jobs are going left and right out of the country and nobody is doing anything about it. Somebody has to step forward and say, 'We need to keep these jobs in America.' That's why these jobs are here, they belong to the terminal, they belong here." But "here" is as fluid as the sea as shippers find new routes to avoid the picket line and a hit to the bottom line.