3000 Jobs–300,000 Applications

With Deluge, Longshore Jobs Become Long Shots

By Ronald D. White, LA Times Staff Writer

Hundreds of thousands of applications have poured in for 3,000 temporary jobs at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles — about 10 times as many submissions as expected — underscoring just how hungry people are for high-paying work in a weak labor market.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union was so concerned about the crush of applicants that it asked a mediator Tuesday whether the hiring process could be delayed to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The mediator, however, ordered the union and West Coast shipping lines to proceed with their lottery and begin picking the 3,000 new dockworkers Thursday, as planned.

As word spread Tuesday about the flood of applications, some would-be dock hands were discouraged.

“This is almost like going to the horse track and betting on the long shot,” said Raymond Sheets, a 47-year-old tree trimmer from San Diego who hopes to improve his lot by landing a job at the harbor.

The 3,000 slots, which are being offered to help handle a record amount of cargo coming through the ports, will pay $20.66 to $28 an hour — substantially higher than the average $8.38-an-hour entry-level wage in Los Angeles County. On Friday, the state reported that California’s employers cut a net 17,300 jobs in July, illustrating how cautious many businesses remain when it comes to hiring.

“It’s very rare in this economy, particularly for non-college-educated positions,” to be so lucrative, said Michael Mische, a principal at WCL Consulting Co. of Long Beach and an adjunct professor of management at the USC Marshall School of Business. “These are highly desirable jobs, with the opportunity of becoming skilled in a vocation” that could lead to better things down the road.

Indeed, it’s not clear how long any of the 3,000 jobs might last. But in at least some cases, if workers accumulate enough hours, they may be able to join the union full-time.

To apply, people were supposed to fill out a postcard bearing name, address and telephone number, and get it in the mail by last Friday. The only requirements: Be at least 18 years old, have a driver’s license and be legally eligible to work in the U.S.

A Long Beach post office spokesman said Tuesday that a conservative estimate put the number of mailed-in applications at between 220,000 and 250,000. A shipping lines’ representative suggested that the tally could climb substantially higher before Thursday’s lottery.

(emphasis added by me)