Dockworkers across West Coast, shippers reach tentative deal on new contract

There's optimism Thursday that the discord that has plagued West Coast ports for nearly a year will soon be over.

A tentative agreement on a six-year contract covering more than 22,000 longshore workers at all 29 West Coast ports was announced Wednesday night by the union representing dockworkers and the shippers industry group.

Details of the agreement were not released. The agreement is subject to ratification by members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers, and Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement that recognizes the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce in keeping our ports operating," PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Willie Adams said in a joint statement. "We are also pleased to turn our full attention back to the operation of the West Coast ports."

The union and PMA had been in talks for months on a contract to replace the one that had expired July 1.

The ILWU had claimed "from pre-pandemic levels through 2022, the percentage of ILWU wages and benefits continued to drop compared to PMA rising revenues."

The PMA had accused the union of engaging in work slowdowns, leading to rolling closures of container terminals.

The tentative agreement was reached with assistance from acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su.

"The news of a tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association should be welcomed by every Angeleno and every American," Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said. "This is a win for the working people of our city.

"About 40% of West Coast imports come through the Port of Los Angeles, which generates 1 in 15 jobs here in Los Angeles."

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said the tentative agreement "brings the stability and confidence that customers have been seeking."

International labor economist Jock O'Connell of Beacon Economics called the proposed deal "a very positive sign for the West Coast ports and for everyone who sends their cargo through them."

"The reputation of the West Coast ports as reliable conduits for Asian trade will be less tarnished, but they still have a long way to go in assuring shippers and customers, the importers and exporters," in the wake of recent disruptions that caused significant delays in the movement of goods, O'Connell told the Los Angeles Times.

O'Connell said the ratification process could take several weeks, adding, "It's important to emphasize that this is not finished."

President Joe Biden praised Su's efforts in brokering the deal during sometimes "acrimonious negotiations."

"Above all I congratulate the port workers, who have served heroically through the pandemic and the countless challenges it brought, and will finally get the pay, benefits and quality of life they deserve," Biden said in a statement.