ILWU Coast Longshore Caucus delegates voted Friday to recommend approval of the tentative agreement reached on Feb. 20, 2015, between the union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
The tentative agreement was approved on Feb. 20 by the ILWU’s 16-member elected Negotiating Committee and eight-member Safety Sub-Committee. The proposed 5-year contract covers 20,000 dockworkers at 29 west coast ports. More than half of all clothing and shoes sold in the United States are imported through West Coast ports, according to American
Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).
As reported, the tentative agreement was reached after more than nine months of negotiations. Both sides agreed at the time that operations at all 29 ports would return to normal by Feb. 21 pending ratification, although clearing the backlog of containers clogging port yards was expected to take some time. The PMA had halted vessel loading and unloading twice in February to avoid paying overtime to ILWU worker it said were intentionally slowing port operations to gain leverage in the negotiations, leading to widespread disruptions of receipts this year.
All 90 delegates to the Coast Longshore Caucus spent this week reviewing the proposed agreement line-by-line, before voting by 78 percent to recommend the proposal on Friday.
“This agreement required ten months of negotiations the longest in recent history,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, “but we secured a tentative agreement to maintain good jobs for dockworkers, families and communities from San Diego to Bellingham. Longshore men and women on the docks will now have the final and most important say in the process.”
AAFA President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan said having a five-year contract in place provides AAFA members with a degree of certainty but said much work needs to be done to address the many causes of congestion at West Coast ports.
“It’s important for us to close this chapter, not only because we need our ports to be open and operational, but also for other systemic issues to be addressed issues like how to handle the influx of big ships,” she said.
Copies of the agreement will be mailed to longshore union members, who will then have a chance to discuss the proposal at local union meetings. A secret ballot membership ratification vote will be the final step in the process. A final tally will be conducted on May 22.