LOS ANGELES -- Hundreds of thousands of applicants are competing for 3,000 temporary jobs at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, hoping for lucrative wages in an otherwise weak labor market.
The jobs, which pay $20 to $28 an hour, were created to handle a record amount of cargo coming through both ports.
A Long Beach post office spokesman said Tuesday that a conservative estimate put the number of mailed-in applications at 220,000 to 250,000. The number may have been inflated by people sending in more than one application, although officials have said those who do so would be rejected.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union asked a mediator whether the hiring process could be delayed to ensure that everything runs smoothly, but the mediator ordered the union and West Coast shipping lines to proceed with their lottery and begin picking the 3,000 new dockworkers today, as planned.
''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 land a job at the harbor.
A longshoreman filed a complaint this month with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the shipping lines and union conspired to manipulate the lottery. Neal Schreiner says the union and the shipping lines handed out 8,000 special ''longshore opportunity interest cards" to friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and those people will have a better shot at being chosen.
''The public at large has 1 chance in about 1,200," he added. ''This is a fraud and a scam."
The union expects to select 12,000 to 14,000 people out of the lottery, in case some of the winners do not pass their physical examinations or drug tests or cannot handle the work.