SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, U.S. — The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced on Feb. 20 a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports.
The deal was reached with assistance from U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh.
The groups have been embroiled in a labor dispute for the last nine months, leading to port closures and delays. The standoff “wrought havoc” on the export of soybeans and other agriculture commodities that use the ports, U.S. agriculture groups said.
The parties said they will not be releasing details of the agreement at this time. The agreement is subject to ratification by both parties.
“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. “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma said they were relieved to hear of the tentative deal and said operations resumed at their terminals on Feb. 21.
“We are uncertain how long it will take to move the remaining cargo on our docks and awaiting vessels and to assess the effects this has had on our gateway,” the ports of Seattle and Tacoma said. “Our combined ports support more than 200,000 jobs throughout the state, many of them depending on the freight moving through our terminals.”
The American Soybean Association (ASA) said the work stoppage on the West Coast had ripple effects on soybean farms, within the processing industry and the livestock industry, which represents the top consumer of soybean meal.
"Soybean farmers are proud of the role we play in the nation's agricultural trade, and proud to be a leader on these issues," said ASA President Wade Cowan. "Disruptions like the one we saw out west have the potential to throw the country's farm economy into disarray. A devastating impact like that isn't a bargaining chip. It goes without saying that we are relieved to see a resolution to the dispute, and we encourage both parties to ratify this new contract and get back to work as quickly as possible."