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Longshore workers' approval of West Coast port contract appears likely

Early voting reports from local unions indicate that West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington will approve a new bargaining agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), union officials announced late last week.

Tallies of the vote totals so far indicated that the contract extension will pass by 67 percent. The union's coast balloting committee will announced the official results on Aug. 4, according to a press release from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

If ratified as expected, the ILWU-PMA agreement will expire July 1, 2022. The contract is currently set to expire July 1, 2019. If ratified, the contract extension will raise wages, maintain health benefits and increase pensions.

"There was no shortage of differing views during the year-long debate leading up to this vote, and members didn't take this step lightly," said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. "In the end, the members made the final decision to extend the contract for three years."

The ILWU's Coast Longshore Division represents 20,000 longshore workers on the U.S. West Coast.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation (NRF) welcomed reports that the union appears close to extending the contract at West Coast ports.

"Nobody wants to see a repeat of the problems that were experienced in 2014-2015, and this remarkable sign of good faith on the part of both labor and management ensures that such a situation will be avoided," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release.

Approval of the three-year pact would be in contrast to 2014, when negotiations didn’t begin until May of that year and the contact was allowed to lapse in July. Workers stayed on the job without a contract, but contentious talks led to slowdowns, cargo backups and other problems until an agreement was finally reached in February 2015 after then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down with labor and management to broker an agreement.

Port congestions during the period posed significant threats to retail supply chains — particularly during the 2014 holiday season, NRF officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/31/2017