Thousands of angry dockworkers marched at the Port of Los Angeles. Eleven thousand area residents signed petitions. A score of state, city and county politicians raised objections. Mayor Eric Garcetti has led weeks of negotiations, calling for a compromise.
But a three-month battle over whether robots will replace jobs at the Port of Los Angeles may be all but over.
In a letter Monday to Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council, Maersk, the global shipping giant, announced it will move ahead with introducing driverless cargo carriers at its port terminal, the nation’s largest, regardless of the outcome of a City Council vote on the project scheduled for Friday.
The first of the 45-foot-high robotic machines, which transfer containers from ships to trucks, are already on their way from a factory in Poland, and scheduled to arrive in late July, the company said.
Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals “has the undisputed right under its lease and its collective bargaining agreement to introduce automated technology of this sort and does not require any permit or any other port, city or state approval,” according to the letter, signed by Wim Lagaay, chief executive of APM Terminals North America, and Lee Kindberg, Maersk’s director of environment and sustainability.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents more than 10,000 dockworkers at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, acknowledged that its contract allows automation. But workers, faced with the possibility of hundreds of job losses, rose up and prompted the union to challenge a minor permit for the APM carriers’ electric chargers and other equipment in hopes of blocking the whole project.