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Union, Shipping Lines Report Contract Progress

Labor: Negotiators say the tone of talks has improved. Jesse Jackson leads L.A. rally.

September 06, 2002|NANCY CLEELAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the Rev. Jesse Jackson led a boisterous union rally in Los Angeles supporting West Coast dockworkers, negotiators in San Francisco made substantial progress in closely watched contract talks on Thursday.

The longshore union and shipping lines signed a tentative agreement on health benefits, then dove into the difficult terrain of technology. Employers and union members have strongly different opinions about how to introduce technology needed to improve efficiency at the ports.

Representatives from both sides remarked on the improved tone of the talks, which began in May and broke down briefly over the Labor Day weekend.

"In my opinion, the glass is half full," said Joseph Miniace, president of the Pacific Maritime Assn., which is negotiating for major shipping lines. In a change from the last few months, Miniace said he would stay out of negotiating sessions, allowing committees to work out details.

In Los Angeles, Ramon Ponce de Leon, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union negotiating team, attributed progress to support from other unions and public officials. Ponce de Leon was with Jackson at the rally with union leaders and dockworkers at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, where Jackson criticized White House officials for intervening in contract talks.

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