PortandTerminal.com, January 20, 2021
“We’ve got more cargo than we do skilled labor,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – The LA Times is reporting today that as many 700 dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have contracted COVID-19. Hundreds more are taking virus-related leaves, raising fears of a severe slowdown in the region’s multibillion-dollar logistics economy.
A growing longshore worker infection rate, which parallels the surge of the virus across California, is exacerbating a massive snarl at the two ports due to a pandemic-induced surge in imports of general goods. Port executives, union leaders and elected officials are mounting an urgent campaign to initiate dockworker vaccinations, fearing that a labor shortage could force terminal shutdowns.
“We’ve got more cargo than we do skilled labor,”
“We’ve got more cargo than we do skilled labor,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, in an interview. “We are told 1,800 workers are not going on the job due to COVID right now. That can [include] those who are isolating through contact tracing or awaiting test results. Or maybe [those who] fear … going on the job when a lot of people are sick.”
Workplaces across California, from behemoth warehouses to neighborhood businesses, face soaring coronavirus cases while trying to stay afloat amid continually seesawing restrictions. As the pandemic has worsened, containing the virus has become more difficult, especially among the L.A. region’s essential workers — who include dockworkers as well as grocery store clerks and nurses.
“If you think some of the store shelves were empty as we got into this pandemic, let these ports shut down and see how empty they’ll be.”
Last week the Los Angeles/Long Beach Longshore Labor Relations committee agreed to start requiring mandatory temperature screening at marine terminals starting January 12th. For now, the measure is being implemented for 30 days expiring on February 11th.
“(I’m) trying not to get sick. Last night a foreman told me a crane driver left work at 8:30 because he got a text saying he was positive for COVID. The signal person has to leave because he was exposed to the crane op.” – LA port worker speaking with PortandTerminal.com
Other union leaders across the country are also sounding the warning. “If you think some of the store shelves were empty as we got into this pandemic, let these ports shut down and see how empty they’ll be.” commented Ken Riley, president of the local longshoremen’s union in Charleston, S.C.
Read the full story on LATimes.com.
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