Port of Tacoma

200-plus longshore jobs up for grabs in Tacoma

More than 200 longshore jobs in Tacoma go up for grabs this week, but the chance to win one could pass you by if you don’t act quickly.

Don’t expect to see any splashy radio or television ads or Internet job announcements. Those jobs, offered by Tacoma’s Longshore Union in conjunction with waterfront employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, are quietly being opened to the public and waterfront insiders only for the next four days.

The only public notice of the job lottery is a job advertisement scheduled to run Monday and Tuesday in The News Tribune’s classified miscellaneous employment section and careerbuilder.com.

The union and the association are conducting a lottery April 8 to pick 226 workers to become “unidentified casuals” in the longshore ranks.

To be entered in that drawing, potential workers must submit their name, address, phone number and signature on a postcard to the union’s and employers’ Joint Port Labor Relations Committee by mail. That postcard must be postmarked no later than midnight Wednesday.

The casual labor longshore jobs that lottery winners may not be immediately lucrative. They’re at the bottom rung of the longshore workers’ ladder. Casuals are dispatched to work on the waterfront only after regular longshore workers are all occupied or unavailable.

But those jobs could lead to becoming a regular longshore “B” worker job with generous benefits and average wages approaching $100,000 a year.

The opportunity to become a longshore union worker was last offered to the public and friends and relatives of union members and waterfront employers in 2005.

That year, some 16,000 members of the public entered a lottery to win one of the 938 unidentified casual positions. Another 938 casuals were automatically selected because they were referred by Longshore Union members or employers.

The union and the employers added hundreds of potential workers to its ranks because the container business was booming then, and they expected that full-time positions would grow quickly. But container traffic growth stalled in 2007, and even declined by some 25 percent by 2010, leaving many of the unidentified casuals with only spotty longshore work.

A recent surge in port activity has finally driven job demand higher and prompted the union and employers to look for more workers.

This time, however, the number of new casuals will be much smaller, a total of 226.

Here’s how the procedure will work, said Peter Nickerson, a consultant to the union and employer group:

Longshore union members and waterfront employers will receive a total 1,100 “interest” cards with unique watermarks to prevent duplication. The union members may distribute their card to a person of their choice, usually a relative or close friend. Those 1,100 applicants will mail those cards to an address preprinted on the card. The committee will draw 113 cards from the 1,100 or so submitted.

Members of the public who wish to be entered in the job lottery, must print their last, first and middle names, telephone number and address on the back of a 31/2-inch-by-51/2-inch postcard and sign it. Mail it to the Joint Port Labor Relations Committee, Attention: Tacoma 2013 Casual Process, P.O. Box 11263, Tacoma, WA 98411. The card must be postmarked by midnight Wednesday.

Cards that are incomplete, illegible, untimely, incorrectly sized or which are duplicates will be disqualified, the committee said.

The committee will select 113 cards from those submitted by the public and 113 from among the 1,100 interest cards. Those 226 cards will then be combined and drawn and assigned a number based on their drawing order, the group said.

That number will determine the order in which the applicants will be invited to appear for processing. About three weeks after the April 8 drawing, the list of those drawn and their drawing order will be posted on ilwu.org and on pmanet.org for 30 days.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have no “disqualifying felonies” on their records, be physically and mentally able to perform longshore work with or without reasonable accommodations for disabilities. Successful candidates, the committee said, must have sufficient understanding of English to understand safety warnings and be eligible to work in the United States.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune