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Port History - The People


Laborers at the Port

Workers building banana facility at Berths 147-148
Workers building banana facility at Berths 147-148

In the early days of the 20th century, the Port was populated by crews of workers unloading goods throughout the Harbor. At least 20,000 laborers worked at Harbor shipyards repairing and building vessels, and others labored at the oil, banana, and citrus berths. Many more worked in lumber facilities moving millions of board feet of lumber through the Port in the form of milled timber, pilings, planks, redwood staves, shingles, railroad ties, and telephone poles. Commercial fishermen and workers of various nationalities, including Japanese, Italians, Croatians, Portuguese, and Scandinavians, were employed at the fishing and canning facilities processing anchovies, sardines, and tuna. Their efforts made the Harbor one of the nation's leading fishing and canning centers during the first part of the 20th century.

The hard work instilled a fierce sense of comradery and loyalty among the workers which continues into the present. Although relations between workers were generally harmonious, early dealings between laborers and Port management were often less so. As was common throughout the nation at that time, disputes took place over wages and working conditions. Circumstances improved at the Port by 1934 when the laborers unionized under the International Longshoremen's Association.

Today, 85% of Harbor employees work in trucking and warehousing jobs. The Port continues to play an important role in the economy of Southern California, accounting for more than 1 out of every 27 jobs in the region.