A tentative agreement was reached in West Coast labor negotiations

The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union today announced an interim settlement in West Coat labor negotiations, ending more than a year of talks that have had a significant impact on the US container trade.

The new six-year contract applies to workers in all 29 West Coast ports. Details of the agreement have not yet been released and both sides have yet to ratify the new contract before it becomes official.

A joint statement from the ILWU and PMA said the deal was reached with the support of acting US Secretary of Labor Julie Su, who attended negotiations in San Francisco earlier this week.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that recognizes the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices made by the ILWU workforce in keeping our ports open,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Willie Adams. “We are also pleased to return our full attention to operating the west coast ports.”

Acting US Secretary of Labor Julie Su said the agreement shows once again that collective bargaining, while difficult at times, works.

“Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of the ILWU and PMA leadership, the preliminary agreement provides important stability for workers, employers and our country’s supply chain,” Minister Su said. “This important milestone is welcome news for all, and on behalf of President Biden, we are pleased to congratulate both parties on what they have accomplished.”

The agreement covers more than 22,000 dockers at container terminals operated by PMA members along the US West Coast. Although negotiations were making initial progress, tensions increased this spring, leading to minor disruptions in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The situation reached a critical point earlier this month when several container terminals on the West Coast closed entirely.

The negotiations took place at a time of extreme volatility in cargo volumes. They began last year at the end of the record-breaking surge in freight amid the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to this day as freight volumes regained 2019 levels.

The lack of a deal has also helped rebalance the US container trade, causing cargo volumes to shift to ports on the East and Gulf Coasts as shippers tried to avoid potential disruptions on the West Coast.

“The preliminary agreement between the ILWU and the PMA brings the stability and confidence that clients have been looking for,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. “We are grateful to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, ILWU International President Willie Adams and PMA President James McKenna for their leadership and determination. We look forward to working with our partners in a renewed effort to bring cargo back and show why Los Angeles is the number one choice for transpacific trade.”

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