Dockworkers vote could ward off freight flow clog at West Coast ports

Shipping containers on a dockPreliminary reports indicate West Coast union longshore workers will extend their collective bargaining agreement to 2022, the early vote welcomed by stakeholders given the contentious negotiations of 2014, which jammed up port operations numerous times during that year’s negotiations.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said 67 percent of rank-and-file members voted July 28 in favor of extending contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. The union will announce the official vote tally from 129 Pacific ports Aug. 4.

The extension would raise wages, maintain health benefits, increase pensions and extend the agreement three years beyond the current expiration date of July 1, 2019.

Jonathan Gold of the National Retail Federation and other stakeholders applauded the early vote.

“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,” Gold said.

The proposal resulted from year-long negotiations and affects dockworkers in ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington.

The previous contract expired in July 2014 after less than two months of negotiations. The union continued working without a contract, but ports were mired in slowdowns and cargo backups. Congressional representatives and others pleaded for a resolution until Labor Secretary Tom Perez brokered an agreement the following February.