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Friday, April 18 2014 @ 08:07 AM CDT

Port Of Oakland Strike Disrupts Activity

Labor

OAKLAND, Calif. — Officials say custodial and maintenance workers at Oakland International Airport and one of the nation's busiest seaports are set to end their pickets and return to work late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read says airport workers are expected to return to work for the beginning of a 10 p.m. shift.

Port Of Oakland Strike Disrupts Activity

By TERRY COLLINS

OAKLAND, Calif. — Officials say custodial and maintenance workers at Oakland International Airport and one of the nation's busiest seaports are set to end their pickets and return to work late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read says airport workers are expected to return to work for the beginning of a 10 p.m. shift.

The seaport doesn't operate overnight, so Kos-Read says workers scheduled to begin a 2 a.m. shift are expected to be the first port workers back on the job.

The one-day protest was over stalled contract talks. Workers outside the port blocked trucks from picking up and delivering goods on what had been expected to be a busy day before the holidays.

No flights at the airport were affected by the protest.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Custodial and maintenance workers picketed Tuesday at one of the nation's busiest ports, blocking trucks from picking up and delivering goods on what had been expected to be a busy day before the holidays.

Ships waited at six of the seven terminals at the Port of Oakland, as intermittent rain soaked hundreds of angry workers who carried signs and blocked entrances during the one-day protest over stalled contract talks.

Passing motorists blared horns and supporters pounded drums as strikers chanted, "Shut it down, we're a union town!"

"We're letting management and the public know that they can't treat us like that," said Lynn Riordan, a communications staffer for Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

Across town, dozens of additional service union members picketed at Oakland International Airport after walking off their jobs late Monday. Those employees are covered under the same contract as port workers.

No flights were affected, port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said.

By midday, union officials said that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan had stepped in to bring the parties back to table to continue contract talks, and the talks could lead to the port likely reopening by late evening.

"The Port is committed to reaching a mutual agreeable contract, as soon as possible," Acting Port Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint said in a written statement. "This important step will allow our marine terminals to reopen for the evening shift, and make sure our truckers and shippers can get their goods to market on time."

SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez echoed a similar sentiment.

"We are encouraged that the port has agreed to a path that will quickly bring us together," Sanchez said. "We hope to reach a resolution as soon as possible,"

The port declared an impasse in negotiations in May, and the two sides are still scheduled to meet later this month. The talks broke down amid issues involving pay, benefits and a demand by the port that custodial and maintenance workers contribute to their retirement fund.

Numerous dockworkers, who load and unload cargo vessels, refused to cross the picket line at the port as a show of solidarity with the protesting workers.

"These service workers have effectively shut down the port," said Jack Heyman, a retired longshoreman from Oakland who chairs the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's transport workers solidarity committee.

Dozens of truck drivers decided not to interrupt the protest.

"What can you do?" David Soria, a driver for Modesto-based Rocha Transportation, said as he waited to drop off a shipment of wine. "My company told me to stay, so I'll stay. And wait."

Kos-Read said it was unfortunate that truckers were forced to stop work and wait in the rain.

The port handles roughly about 2.3 million cargo containers a year, generating about $300 million in revenue. Officials, however, say the facility is $1.3 billion in debt.

The service union, which represents electricians, clerical workers, security personnel and janitors, claimed the port is withholding requested financial information. The union also said port officials have implemented unilateral changes during bargaining sessions.

"We're showing you that if you don't take us seriously, we have the ability to shut down the port," said Gary Jimenez, a union vice president.

The protest marked the latest work stoppage at the port within the past 12 months. Occupy Oakland demonstrators shut it down twice last year

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