• Powell Slaughter

Labor contract ratified for West Coast ports

ILWU members approve contract extension two years ahead of schedule


It's official. Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union have voted to ratify a contract extension good through July 1, 2022. Some 67% of ILWU workers at 29 West Coast ports voted in favor of the contract, which involved a year of debate with the Pacific Maritime Assn. and among union membership.


July 31, 2017 --

SAN FRANCISCO – The International Longshore & Warehouse Union says early reporting on a vote to extend its contract at 29 West Coast ports appears to favor early resolution.

The union said Friday that early returns from membership indicate approval of the extension of its collective bargaining agreement with the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents port operators in California, Oregon and Washington, will pass by 67%.

That contract, scheduled to expire July 1, 2019, now would extend to July 1, 2022. An official tally of the union vote, which came after a year of debate, is expected on Friday. ILWU said the contract extension raises wages, maintains health benefits and increases pensions.

The last time the ILWU and PMA tried to negotiate a new contract, the agreement lapsed in July 2014 after a late start for talks between the two sides. That resulted in massive gridlock at West Coast ports that impacted port operations in fourth-quarter 2014 and the first couple of months of 2015.

As a result, many introductions slated for the January 2015 Las Vegas Market didn’t make it to the show. Some vendors were scrambling as late as the April High Point Market that year to get their new goods in front of buyers.

The National Retail Federation welcomed the reports that the labor and management appear close to extending their existing contract at West Coast ports nearly two full years before it is set to expire.

“We applaud ILWU members for taking the unprecedented step of approving a contract extension well in advance of the contract expiration,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “This agreement between the ILWU and PMA will provide the stability and predictability that NRF’s members and other supply chain stakeholders need to move their cargo efficiently through our ports.

“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. We hope the parties will continue future negotiations in a similar manner.”

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said there was “no shortage of differing views” in the union as it debated the extension among members.

“In the end, the members made the final decision to extend the contract for three years,” he said in a release on the vote.

PMA President James McKenna praised the union’s vote, noting it will ensure labor stability at West Coast ports through 2022.

“With this contract extension, the West Coast waterfront has a tremendous opportunity to attract more market share and demonstrate that our ports and our workforce are truly world-class,” McKenna said in a statement. “We are fully committed to delivering the highest standards of reliability and productivity for years to come.

“I look forward to working with ILWU President Bob McEllrath in the months ahead to ensure that the West Coast sets the standard for service and efficiency, and is the destination of choice for cargo entering and exiting the United States.”

Powell SlaughterPowell Slaughter | Senior Editor

I'm Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. While I cover occasional, home entertainment and home office here, a major responsibility is expanding our attention to the logistics side of the industry. I hope my articles will encourage a dialogue with retailers, vendors, third-party logistics specialists and carriers. I’d love to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions for smoother flow of material and goods.

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