LOS ANGELES -- Cargo ships are being turned away from the nation's busiest port complex after a worker strike shut the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for four straight days.
Members of a chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job on Tuesday, and longshoremen are honoring their picket lines, reports ABC 7.
Union members been working without a contract since June 2010. Negotiations on a contract broke down on Monday night and the workers decided to strike, fearing their jobs were being outsourced.
"We are not fighting for a pay raise. We are fighting to keep these jobs," Kim Rich, ILWU office clerical unit told ABC.
At least 60 clerical workers continued to protest on a cold, wet morning on Friday, shutting down several terminals.
The New York Times reports that fears are rising that the work stoppage could hurt the American economy.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together handle 40 percent of the nation's import trade totaling $1 billion in cargo trade every day.
The employers said in a statement to ABC that the work stoppage has "harmful repercussions for tens of thousands of people whose livelihood in the port communities and beyond depends on the cargo moving through the ports."
"The 600 clerks involved in this strike -- the highest paid office clerical workers in America, and who have been offered absolute job guarantees and compensation boosts -- continue to put their own self-interests first," the statement said.
But union representatives fear that their jobs, which are mainly computer-based, will be sent to places with lower labor costs from Taiwan to Texas, reports the New York Times.
“Everyone can understand why big powerful corporations want to outsource as many jobs as they can, and pay workers as little as they can get away with,” Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told the newspaper.
“Workers have drawn a line in the sand to try to take on powerful employers that are sending good jobs overseas and hurting lots of communities in the process.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the strike is not expected to affect shipments of holiday merchandise, most of which has already passed through the port.