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Winners of longshore lottery drawing know they haven’t hit jackpot — yet

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Jordan Banuelos is one of the people who sent in a post card and had his card picked to be in the running to be a casual longshore worker in the port. June 5, 2017. (Chuck Bennett/Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Jordan Banuelos is one of the people who had his card picked to be in the running to be a casual longshore worker in the port. June 5, 2017. (Chuck Bennett/Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Kevin Sanchez’s grandfather worked on the docks — and his father after him.

They earned a good living and cared for their family with union-level paychecks and benefits.

Now, Sanchez, a bar manager, is looking forward to becoming the third generation to land what some call one of the best blue-collar jobs in America. But he knows the call isn’t going to hear the work whistle blow this week — or any time soon.

“I don’t expect them to call me for a year or two,” Sanchez said. Nonetheless, he believes his lottery victory is “ a godsend.”

The 33-year-old is one of the 25,898 applicants who were randomly chosen from a drawing of 80,000 hopefuls last week for a shot at part-time union dockworker positions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that could lead to full-time gigs in the year ahead.

The first 2,300 qualified applicants picked will become “casuals,” as the part-timers are known.

Sanchez’s position on the list? He’s 15,007th.

There’s no other way to obtain a casual status other than through the lottery run by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the union’s employer, the Pacific Maritime Association. The last one was held a decade ago and aspirants have been waiting for years.

So Sanchez is prepared to wait.

“My family has always been a union family,” he said. “It’s something my father and brother wanted to do.”

The last time around, his brother picked up a job as a casual and is still working part-time for the union.

Lottery issues smoothed out

This drawing began in February. It got off to a rocky start with complaints from the union about how ballots were handled by the independent operator hired to run the lottery.

Eventually, the issues got smoothed out, but it took months for the company to pluck the winning names by hand and list them in sequential order so they can be called as needed.

The part-time jobs, which include no benefits, appeal to potential casuals because they have for decades led to full-time work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach docks. For those jobs, the pay averages $123,278, plus generous medical coverage and a pension.

Casuals are chosen based on their seniority. The more work they get under their belts, the quicker they can elevate to full-time union roles.

But they have to get in line. Already about 5,000 casuals are picking up intermittent work at a dispatch center in Wilmington. Many get called as seldom as twice a week, raising concerns that the lottery offers an empty promise.

Still, the drawing buoyed the hopes of tens of thousands who waited months for the results.

‘It’s a dangerous job’

“I am excited and pretty confident that I will get in there,” said Jose Duran, a 34-year-old letter carrier in Torrance. His position: 6,296th.

“I know it’s a dangerous job,” he said, “but I am doing it to be financially set. Everyone tells me they make good money.”

Union dockworkers unload a constant stream of steel containers from massive ships steaming in from foreign ports, mostly in Asia. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of consumer goods bound for retailers across the country are crammed into those containers, then placed on rail cars or trucks and shipped on to warehouses in the Inland Empire and elsewhere.

The union represents dockworkers up and down the West Coast. Because they control so much of the cargo the nation depends on, they have been able to strengthen their negotiating clout over the decades.

“Longshore jobs are among the best jobs that you can get with no more than a high school education,” said Chris Tilly, a labor economist and professor of urban planning at UCLA. “They are terrific in terms of pay and security.”

Automation on horizon

But automation has made union officials jittery as machines take over jobs people once did.

Even those who hit it lucky know the days of manual labor at the docks are numbered.

“I think the port will only be relevant for the next 10 to 15 years,” said Jordan Banuelos, a 22-year-old Harbor College student who is 16,737th on the list.

“I see robotics taking over jobs there.”

Still, he’d be happy to pick up casual work, which starts at $25 an hour and rises with experience. His mother is also a part-timer and his grandfather worked on the docks for decades. But he doesn’t expect to get called anytime soon.

“I am not holding my breath,” he said.

In the meantime, he will stick to his studies of real estate development.

“I see that as more of a long-term career.”

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Longshoreman lottery results announced for Long Beach, LA ports: find out if you’re on the list

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Tens of thousands who applied for a shot at one of America’s best-paid blue-collar jobs found out Friday whether they landed the gig when the Pacific Maritime Association published the sequential list of names of those qualified for part-time positions on the waterfront.

It wasn’t all smiles.

“Damn, damn,” said Jose Rodriguez, a drug counselor on Skid Row, as he scrolled through the list of winners.

“I don’t see anybody that I know and I know a lot that applied, like 100 or so,” he said. “When you see it’s not you, it’s heartbreaking. That’s why I don’t play the lottery.”

For those who applied, the names can be found at: apps.pmanet.org (click on “LA/LB casual draw results”).

The last time the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the PMA, which employs union dockworkers, opened up a call for potential employees was in 2004, before the recession hit. At the time, more than a quarter-million people applied for 3,000 part-time jobs.

This time around, about 80,000 put their names in for the drawing, and 25,000 were picked out and placed in sequential order. The first 2,300 on the list will be eligible for a part-time dockworker position that can lead to full-time employment, PMA officials have previously said.

Those full-time dockworkers in Los Angeles and Long Beach earn $123,278 on average, get full free medical coverage and receive a pension, according to the PMA, which represents the terminal operators.

It’s widely considered one of the best blue-collar jobs available. No university schooling is required and all training is provided by the union.

Peter Russell, a San Pedro resident, didn’t immediately see his name in the list.

“I figured it would be that way,” he said. “I don’t have much faith in their system.”

Negotiated between the ILWU and PMA, the controversial lottery process has been criticized over the years for being a two-tiered system that favors ILWU friends and family.

How it works

Anyone can put their name in the drawing by sending in a postcard, but ILWU members get a specially marked postcard for their friends and family.

The two are placed in separate barrels and drawn randomly from alternating piles. The two groups hired an outside party, Moorpark-based InterOptimis, to conduct the drawing behind closed doors, stoking distrust from those outside the process.

The drawing, which began in February, took months to complete and was marred early on by disputes between the union and PMA over the process.

“I feel like this is something set up,” Rodriguez said. “A drawing should be done in public, especially for this.”

It’s easy to understand the skepticism.

The PMA doesn’t take applications. To get a full-time job on the docks, one has to first be a so-called casual. Those jobs are landed only through the drawing and some can stay in the positions for more than a decade. Casuals start about $25 an hour but their base rate adjusts as they gain experience. Also, they have no benefits.

In all, there are about 14,000 dockworkers in the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex and thousands more casuals.

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