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August 7, 2017 4:15 PM, EDT
West Coast Ports, Longshoremen Ratify Contract Extension to 2022
Port Long Beach containers Reuters Bob Riha Jr./Reuters

West Coast longshoremen at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington ratified a three-year contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association on Aug. 4, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced.

The current agreement was set to expire July 1, 2019. The newly approved three-year pact will extend the expiration to July 1, 2022.

A tally showed that 67% of members voted in favor of the extension, according to the union, which represents 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast. The contract extension will raise wages, maintain health benefits, and increase pensions from 2019 to 2022.

“The rank-and-file membership has made their decision and expressed a clear choice,” ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said in a statement. “During the past year, we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides. The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances.”

PMA hailed the agreement as unique.

“This first-of-its-kind contract extension is great news for the maritime industry and the nation, setting the stage for reliable and productive cargo operations for years to come. This agreement also continues to provide ILWU workers with a generous wage and benefits package during a time of great change in the global maritime business,” PMA President James McKenna said in a statement.

One in nine jobs in the five-county region are connected to the San Pedro Bay port complex, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

“The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s vote to extend their contract by three years helps sustain the momentum building in our supply chain as we continue to focus on delivering innovation, value and efficiency for the U.S. importers and exporters,” Seroka said. “The certainty that comes with this contract extension is great news for all of Southern California.”

The West Coast ports were rocked by labor unrest in 2015 that consequently disrupted trucking operations that use an estimated 10,000 drayage drivers to move container cargo.

For example, port operators ratcheted up the pressure to resolve West Coast contract talks by shutting down vessel operations over the Presidents Day weekend in 2015.

At the time, President Barack Obama sent Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to join the negotiations, and a tentative agreement was reached Feb. 20, 2015 — almost eight months after the prior labor contract had expired, according to the Maritime Law Association of the United States.