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Port workers union seeks veto of cargo container fee bill

September 26, 2008|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents workers who handle cargo at 29 West Coast ports, on Thursday asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto legislation that would levy a fee of up to $60 on each 40-foot cargo container going through the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland to pay for pollution-reduction programs.

The 15,000-member union opposes SB 974 by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) because its fees would come on top of several other assessments on cargo containers moving to and from the ports, ILWU International Vice President Joe Radisich said in a statement.

Fees totaling between $150 and $200 per 40-foot cargo container are already being levied or are set to begin by early next year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach or along the rail route just outside the harbor. The fees are designed to reduce peak-hour congestion and fund a clean-truck program, among other things.

Adding Lowenthal's mandate on the ports would be counterproductive and might encourage retailers to avoid California ports altogether in favor of Canadian, East Coast or Gulf Coast ports that would be less expensive to use, the union argued.

"We take this action regrettably because Sen. Lowenthal is a good friend who shares our concern for workers and the environment," Radisich said. "The bottom line is that Sen. Lowenthal's legislation is the last one to cross the finish line and it's behind all the other container fees that are already being implemented."

Lowenthal's chief of staff, John Casey, said that the senator and the union have worked together in the past and would do so again in the future, but "on this issue, we do disagree."

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ron.white@latimes.com

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