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Longshore lottery generated huge interest, but employers remain mum on details

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on March 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm with No Comments »
March 22, 2013 4:25 pm

A jobs lottery designed to create a list of 226 workers to enter Tacoma’s longshore union workforce generated huge interest, but lottery officials aren’t talking about the specifics of the process or its results.

Lottery entrants had just four days to enter the contest from the time the first notice of the lottery appeared in Sunday’s News Tribune until Wednesday midnight, the deadline for entries to be postmarked.

The article and two job ads in The News Tribune’s classified section and on generated hundreds of phone calls from potential lottery entrants wanting to know details of how they should submit their entries.

The group in charge of the lottery process, a joint committee of union officials and waterfront employers, didn’t offer a website or a phone number for job seekers to call.

That resulted in hundreds of calls to those that job seekers thought might answer their questions.

“Oh, my gosh,” said Scott Mason, Local 23 president. “We were inundated at the hall.  I got dozens of calls. ” Mason, who wasn’t directly involved in the lottery process, said he tried to return all calls made to him.

At the Port of Tacoma, which was not connected to the lottery, receptionists and the human resources department received 110 to 125 calls, said port spokeswoman Julie Collins.

The port posted a link on its website to the Careerbuilder advertisement.

At The News Tribune, the lottery announcement story was the week’s most popular with more the 20,000 hits.  The ad generated 2,713 hits and 5,328 searches.  The McClatchy Co., parent of The News Tribune, is part owner of Careerbuilder.

The News Tribune’s business news department received more than 100 phone calls and several dozen e-mails about the lottery. Callers from locales as distant as Miami and New Orleans inquired about how to enter the lottery.

The paper’s classified advertising department also was the target of calls from job seekers.

Several issues emerged during the lottery application process.  The ad specified that post cards whose dimensions were  3 1/2-by-5 1/2-inches were to be submitted to enter the lottery.  The ad said such cards could be purchased at the U.S. Post Office or at office supply stores, but job seekers said none meeting those dimensions was available. The Post Office’s standard post card was 1/2 inch too short.

To meet that demand, several local office supply stores custom cut such cards from heavy stock and offered them for sale.

The Post Office reported that some applicants had printed both the address to which the card was to be sent and their own names and addresses on the same side of the card travel postcard style.  The postal service’s automated sorting machinery couldn’t decide which address was which and returned dozens of those postcards to the senders.

Neither  Longshore Union nor the Pacific Maritime Association officials involved in the lottery  returned calls Friday seeking information on the number of entries or the number of cards that were rejected because their were wrongly completed.

Likewise a consultant hired by the joint committee in charge of the lottery failed to  respond to newspaper calls.

Based on the information contained in the ad and in a prior conversation with lottery officials, here’s what happens next.

The cards will be sorted.  Rejected will be cards that aren’t the proper dimensions, that were sent in an envelope, that were dropped off at the union hall or PMA office or that don’t contain the required information.  Multiple entries by the same job hopeful will be discarded.

Cards filled out by friends and relatives of Longshore union members or waterfront employers will be placed in one bin.  Some 1,100 of those cards were distributed by union members and employers.  From that group, 113 names will be chosen.

From the qualified public submittals, another 113 will be picked.   The last time such a lottery was conducted, some 18,000 members of the public entered.

Those two groups of 113 cards will be combined.  Another drawing will be held April 8  and each of the 226 cards will be given a number that matches the order in which they were drawn.  Those names will be published on the union’s and the PMA’s websites.  Based on that drawing, small groups will be processed and trained to join the casual worker ranks.

While the casual workers are last in line to get work at the union hall, the casual positions are the gateway jobs for eventually becoming a full-fledged longshore member, a job that in recent years whose compensation approached $100,000.


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