Union ratifies West Coast port labor contract

The union that represents dockworkers at ports along the West Coast has ratified a contract to formally end a labor standoff that, earlier this year, threatened the flow of cargo packages. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dockworkers, voted 82 percent to 18 percent to approve a five-year contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which negotiates labor contracts for port managers. 

The agreement follows a months-long standoff that resulted in port managers closing 29 ports along the West Coast in February, in a move that prompted President Obama to send Labor Secretary Tom Perez to California to mediate talks between the groups. 

{mosads}ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said the long-term agreement ratified by his members would provide stability to West Coast dockworkers. 

“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” McEllrath said in a statement. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committe made the outcome possible.” 

The contract between the port operators and the ILWU was supposed to have been renewed in July 2014, but negotiations dragged on for months, and the standoff resulted in several large cargo ships idling at sea. 

The long standoff led to cargo delays and ports that normally process 340 million tons of packages per year being forced to scale back operations, including a four-day closure over the President’s Day holiday weekend that riled retail groups and prompted lawmakers to re-evaluate port labor regulations. 

PMA President James McKenna has said the labor deal will prevent a repeat of the port standoff for at least the next five years. 

“The disruptions that occurred during negotiations, and the inconvenience and hardship created by them, were regrettable,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to building upon the incredible advantages West Coast ports offer and winning back the trust and confidence of the shipping community. This contract provides important tools to accomplish that.”

Tags International Longshore and Warehouse Union Pacific Maritime Association West Coast ports

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