Contract negotiations between 17 of the world's largest shipping lines and terminal operators and a small but powerful labor union at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continued late into the night Sunday.
The two sides were seeking to reach accord on a labor contract ahead of a midnight deadline to avert a strike.
The companies and the 930-member office clerical unit Local 63 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union remained far apart on wages and benefits.
But both sides said they were committed to working until the deadline.
The local is small but has powerful allies at the port. The entire 15,000-member ILWU has said it will honor picket lines if a strike or lockout occurs.
There hasn't been a shutdown of the ports since a West Coast-wide dispute in the fall of 2002.
The shipping lines locked out dockworkers from San Diego to Seattle for 11 days before President Bush intervened to force the ports to reopen.
-- Ronald B. White