West Coast Longshore Workers, Employers Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

Thousands of West Coast longshore workers and their employers may soon be covered by a new six-year contract.

After 13 months of negotiations that at times turned contentious, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association announced June 14 that they have come to a tentative agreement.

The deal, which must be ratified by both sides, encompasses more than 22,000 employees at 29 seaports along the West Coast. Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su was instrumental in both sides reaching consensus.

ILWU President Willie Adams said the union is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with PMA.

“While the final decision is up to our members, we feel our time at the bargaining table was well spent and that the agreement represents the hard work of our rank and file and the sacrifices they made during the pandemic,” Adams said.

The ratification process is expected to take a few months to finish, beginning with a contract caucus that gathers delegates from its 29 union locals who are expected to look over the proposed agreement before making a recommendation to the entire membership for a vote.

Details of the tentative contract won’t be shared publicly until the ratification process is complete, Adams said.

Since May 2022 the sides have been in talks, which grew contentious in recent months with accusations of labor disruption at terminals. The last contract expired July 1, 2022.

The long-awaited agreement comes as cargo continues to divert from the West Coast to seaports on the East and Gulf Coasts in the last several months. Some shippers chose to divert to safeguard themselves against contract-related disruption.

West Coast port and civic officials lauded the tentative deal.

“The tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association brings the stability and confidence that customers have been seeking,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners in a renewed effort to bring back cargo and demonstrate why Los Angeles is the first choice for Trans-Pacific trade.”

Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan called it “a monumental day for U.S. West Coast seaports.”

“Labor peace is a commitment to continue delivering the most efficient, cost effective and environmentally-sustainable cargo operations in the country. Asia to the West Coast still remains the most efficient route,” Wan said, adding that the port has been working with tenants and maritime partners to bring back that diverted cargo. The Northern California seaport supports more than 84,000 jobs in the region.

By Karen Robes Meeks