A dis­pute between the Inter­na­tion­al Long­shore and Ware­house Union (ILWU) and the Pacif­ic Mar­itime Asso­ci­a­tion (PMA), a group of West Coast ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors, is at an end fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful nego­ti­a­tions on a new con­tract, the par­ties say.

“After more than nine months of nego­ti­a­tions, we are pleased to have reached an agree­ment that is good for work­ers and for the indus­try,” said PMA Pres­i­dent James McKen­na and ILWU Pres­i­dent Bob McEll­rath in a joint state­ment (PDF). “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

No details are being released at this time.

ILWU locals have already begun com­mu­ni­cat­ing the news to their members.

“Tonight, the ILWU and PMA reached a ten­ta­tive agree­ment on a Coast­wide Con­tract,” one local (Local 13, based in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia) announced on its web­site. “There will be more infor­ma­tion relayed to the mem­ber­ship by the Coast Com­mit­tee, Nego­ti­at­ing Com­mit­tee and your Local Offi­cers as soon as pos­si­ble in accor­dance with the Coast Long­shore Divi­sion By-Laws.”

The San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle quot­ed ILWU spokesman Craig Mer­rilees as say­ing, “The agree­ment was unan­i­mous­ly approved by the nego­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee — and they’d go to work tonight if they could.”

Elect­ed offi­cials hailed the announce­ment. Near­ly every state­ment we’ve received thus far begins by call­ing the set­tle­ment “great news”.

“This is great news for the par­ties involved in the nego­ti­a­tion and a huge relief for our econ­o­my – par­tic­u­lar­ly the count­less Amer­i­can work­ers, farm­ers, and busi­ness­es that have been affect­ed by the dis­pute and those fac­ing even greater dis­rup­tion and costs with fur­ther delays,” said White House Press Sec­re­tary Josh Earnest.

“Help­ing resolve this dis­pute has been a top pri­or­i­ty, and last week­end the Pres­i­dent direct­ed Labor Sec­re­tary Tom Perez to trav­el to Cal­i­for­nia to meet with the par­ties to help them reach a res­o­lu­tion because fur­ther delays would have been harm­ful to these work­ers and the economy.”

“The Pres­i­dent was kept updat­ed on the nego­ti­a­tions over the past sev­er­al weeks, includ­ing receiv­ing an update last night from Sec­re­tary Perez. The Pres­i­dent is grate­ful to Sec­re­tary Perez for his hard work bring­ing about a suc­cess­ful res­o­lu­tion to this dis­pute, and for the help of fed­er­al medi­a­tor Scot Beck­en­baugh.  And he calls on the par­ties to work togeth­er to clear out the back­logs and con­ges­tion in the West Coast Ports as they final­ize their agreement”

“This is great news for busi­ness­es and port work­ers all along the West Coast,” said Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee in a state­ment sent to NPI.

“I want to thank the ILWU and the PMA for find­ing an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple tonight to set­tle the dis­pute that was dam­ag­ing Wash­ing­ton’s econ­o­my. I also want to thank Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Labor Sec­re­tary Perez for step­ping in and help­ing get the par­ties to reach an agree­ment. I expect we will soon see Wash­ing­ton’s ports once again play­ing their essen­tial role in our economy.”

Long Beach May­or Robert Gar­cia voiced sim­i­lar sentiments.

“Get­ting this deal done means our ports and our nation­al econ­o­my will start mov­ing again. This set­tle­ment is great news for our west coast ports, our local work­force, and busi­ness­es around the coun­try,” he said.

“I want to per­son­al­ly thank the Pres­i­dent and the Sec­re­tary of Labor for their effec­tive inter­ven­tion and lead­er­ship in help­ing the par­ties reach a res­o­lu­tion. I also want to thank my col­leagues, the port city may­ors, for their per­sis­tent engage­ment in this process, and the ship­pers and dock­work­ers for reach­ing this agreement.”

“Wash­ing­ton state’s ports play a crit­i­cal role in cre­at­ing jobs and grow­ing the local econ­o­my, so I am glad that this agree­ment in prin­ci­ple was reached tonight to keep work­ers on the job and pro­vide cer­tain­ty for fam­i­lies and busi­ness­es,” said Wash­ing­ton’s senior U.S. Sen­a­tor, Pat­ty Mur­ray. “I appre­ci­ate the com­mit­ment of the ILWU and the PMA to stay at the table and keep work­ing until they reached an agree­ment, and I am very thank­ful to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Sec­re­tary Perez for their work help­ing the two sides come togeth­er to get this done.”

Media reports sug­gest­ed that the final stick­ing point between the PMA and ILWU con­cerned pro­vi­sions in the con­tract relat­ed to arbi­tra­tion. Appar­ent­ly that ques­tion has been set­tled to the mutu­al sat­is­fac­tion of the ports and the union.

The agree­ment must be rat­i­fied by the ILWU’s mem­ber­ship as well as the PMA before it becomes final. The ILWU, found­ed in 1937, rep­re­sents over thir­ty-sev­en thou­sand work­ers in the Pacif­ic Coast states as well as British Colum­bia, Canada.

This post will be updat­ed with more reac­tion as we get it.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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3 replies on “Port dispute at an end? ILWU says tentative agreement reached on new contract with PMA”

  1. It has been 284 days since nego­ti­a­tions began on May 12, 2014. Union work­ers were dragged through the mud as the employ­ers dragged their feet. This process took far longer than it need­ed to and work­ers suf­fered along with our neigh­bors who export Wash­ing­ton’s fruit, hay, grain, leather, etc. Tonight, both sides are grate­ful for this res­o­lu­tion as we look for­ward to the task of rebuild­ing con­fi­dence in our pub­lic ports.

  2. The union demand­ing the abil­i­ty to uni­lat­er­al­ly remove arbi­tra­tors was unrea­son­able, unless the employ­er had the same right.

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