Saturday, West Coast ports reopened after a tentative agreement was reached late Friday night. The agreement announced in a joint statement by Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) President, James McKenna, and International Longshore and Warehouse Unions (ILWU) President, Bob McEllrath, signaled an end to a nine-month labor dispute impacting all 29 West Coast ports.
The agreed upon five-year contact was negotiated with the help of U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Deputy-Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Scot Beckenbaugh. While participating in negotiations in San Francisco, Secretary Perez warned the parties that if they did not reach a deal by Saturday, they would be called to Washington, D.C.
The Pacific Maritime Association, the representative of the ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who represents the dockworkers, had reached mutually agreeable terms on the major items within the contract, including pay and health care. However, there was an ongoing disagreement about an arbitrator, who would play a critical role in the contract’s implementation and enforcement decisions.
Tensions flared when PMA issued orders to halt loading and unloading cargo at West Coast ports for two consecutive weekends. Port management did not want to have to pay workers weekend and holiday pay for work that was not being completed. PMA accused dockworkers of employing illegal slowdown tactics, which ILWU denied.
California Senators Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D), sent a joint letter to PMA and ILWU imploring the parties to reach an agreement and prevent further damage to the U.S. economy. Economists calculated that the port labor dispute cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion a day.