Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California lawmakers intervene in port labor dispute

Shipping containers stacked at the Port of Los Angeles on Jan. 14, 2015.
Shipping containers stacked at the Port of Los Angeles on Jan. 14, 2015. The Associated Press

An extended labor dispute clogging up West Coast ports may have reached its breaking point.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, representing about 20,000 workers at 29 ports along the West Coast, has been working without a contract since last July, and their employer, the Pacific Maritime Association, has accused the union of deliberate slowdowns that are crippling the ports responsible for about one-quarter of the country’s international trade. Workers cite broader problems with the supply chain for the bottleneck.

The dispute has now made its way to Congress, where more than a dozen Republicans and Democrats came together this week to introduce a resolution urging both sides to reach an agreement so that normal operations can resume. Agricultural exports through West Coast ports have fallen as much as 50 percent because of the slowdowns, and the meat and poultry industry estimates it is losing $40 million a week.

Closer to home, California lawmakers will be on the west steps of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to call for an immediate settlement of the conflict. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen will be joined by state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and Assembly members Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, among others.

Last month, 40 legislators, including seven Democrats, sent a letter to the longshoreman union and the maritime association expressing support for their decision to move contract negotiations to a federal mediator. Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, and Gallagher also wrote to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein asking for her help to obtain President Barack Obama’s assistance in resolving the matter.

VIDEO: California government's mysterious technological incompetence continues with another bungled computer system, Dan Walters says.

DIVESTED INTEREST: The movement to divest from fossil fuels has graduated from college campuses to the California Legislature. Senate Democrats introduced this week a climate change bill package that included legislation requiring the state’s major public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, to sell their holdings in coal. Fossil Free California, an activist group promoting divestment in oil, coal and gas, will rally in support of that plan, noon at the CalPERS building on Q Street.

WEEKEND IN THE WEST: President Obama is in the Bay Area today to headline a cybersecurity conference and attend a fundraiser. Obama arrived in California last night for the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University, where he will be delivering the keynote address at 11:15 a.m. After heading up to San Francisco in the evening for a $10,000-a-plate Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the home of tech investor Sandy Robertson, Obama will fly on Saturday to Palm Springs, a favorite vacation spot of his, to enjoy the rest of the long weekend.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH: California State University Chancellor Timothy White speaks to the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles about college preparation and financial aid, Sunday at 10 a.m., for CSU Super Sunday, an outreach event in which leaders from the university’s 23 campuses will visit more than 100 churches in underserved communities to promote the value of college. The program was launched in 2006 by CSU’s African American Initiative as part of ongoing diversity efforts, which also include a push to boost Latino enrollment.

PICKING PETALS: In addition to a display on early sports history unveiled earlier this month, the California State Library has a new exhibit about wildflowers focusing on the iconic golden poppy, California’s state flower since 1903. The exhibit showcases botanical art from the library’s collection, including block prints, promotional postcards, playing cards and watercolor scenes embellished with pressed flowers, in the first floor lobby of the 900 N St. location through April.

READ MORE: Congress pressures both sides in ports dispute

As Latino population grows, so does push for place at California universities

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.