The standoff between the West Coast cargo handlers and shipping companies finally reached a turning point this past week, with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union voting to approve a new deal that will affect arbitration methods and pay for workers.
The negotiations began last May but had slowed due to disagreements, leading to the stalling of shipping processes in 29 ports from Southern California to Seattle, including backlogs that kept ships waiting as containers piled up at ports. Estimates put the cost caused by the delays at $7 billion for retailers.
The new agreement should allow for smoother sailing from here on out, however. The five-year contract between terminal operators and shipping companies met with the approval of 82% of union members. It will be enacted retroactively from July 1, 2014 to July 2019.
In a statement released on Friday, Robert McEllrath, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said that the negotiations “were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history.” In fact, the negotiations stalemated for so long that President Obama had to send Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to arbitrate.
Those involved are hoping the agreement will provide a bright future for both workers and their employers. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, echoed the sentiments of many when he said that the ratification of the new agreement allows the ports to “move full speed ahead, sharpening our competitive edge.”
“We all look forward to many years of strong and fruitful efforts to keep trade moving,” said Doug Drummond, the President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.
It is still likely that the aftermath of the negotiations will affect processes for the foreseeable future, but in general, shipping processes should move much more smoothly.