Heated battle over automation and jobs at Port of L.A. moves to City Council

"A fierce battle over automation at the Port of Los Angeles will move to the City Council as dockworkers continue to protest expected job losses at the nation’s largest shipping terminal.

Amid angry shouting by hundreds of members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted 3 to 2 on Thursday to approve a permit for Maersk, the global logistics conglomerate, to introduce driverless electric cargo handlers inside its 484-acre facility.

After the vote, which took place at a giant San Pedro cargo-handling facility, City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he would introduce a motion Friday asking the 15-member council to veto the harbor commission’s decision.

The permit requested by Maersk raises “a greater issue over the future of work in the port complex,” said Buscaino, who represents neighborhoods around the port. “This project has been shoved down the throats of the ILWU and the community.”

Two smaller terminals, one in Long Beach and one in Los Angeles, have introduced unmanned automated vehicles over the last five years, attracting little opposition.

But when union members realized that Maersk’s massive APM terminal was preparing to automate, they came to believe the growing trend represented a major threat to their livelihoods.

In the negotiations, Maersk reportedly offered to help fund a training center at the port for the union’s diesel mechanics to learn how to repair the new vehicles. But Familathe said the training proposal merely reflects a state-funded upskilling plan already underway and would not be operational until four years after the unmanned vehicles are introduced."

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