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July 28, 2017 3:45 PM, EDT
West Coast Dockworkers Likely to Ratify Three-Year Contract Extension
Port of Seattle Don Wilson/Port of Seattle

Longshoremen on the West Coast are poised to ratify a three-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement with the port authorities and terminal operators in California, Oregon and Washington, according to preliminary tallies.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that about two-thirds of eligible labor have voted in favor of a proposal from the Pacific Maritime Association, representing management, to extend the expiration date of the contract to July 1, 2022. ILWU represents more than 20,000 workers.

The amended contract would include wage hikes, maintain health benefits and increase pension contributions.

“The ILWU was founded on principles of democracy, and the rank-and-file always have the last word on their contracts,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said. “There was no shortage of differing views during the yearlong debate leading up to this vote, and members didn’t take this step lightly. In the end, the members made the final decision to extend the contract for three years.”

PMA President James McKenna said, “Earlier this year, PMA proposed a contract extension with the intent of creating long-term certainty for West Coast ports and all stakeholders. Early voting returns show strong ILWU support for our proposal, which would ensure labor stability through 2022. This historic agreement will be great news for the maritime industry, as well as our customers, workers, port communities, and the U.S. economy.

“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. We are fully committed to delivering the highest standards of reliability and productivity for years to come."

The union expects to announce the official results Aug. 4.

If the extension is formally ratified, then it would be a welcome relief to the draymen who suffered through the long lines and economic hardship when port activity grinded to a halt during the West Coast strikes in early 2015.

“We applaud ILWU members for taking the unprecedented step of approving a contract extension well in advance of the contract expiration,” National Retail Federation 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.”