ILWU Rank-and-File Vote Begins After Leaders Back Contract

Peoples World/Flickr

International Longshore and Warehouse Union leaders recommended approval of a tentative five-year contract, clearing the way for a vote by 20,000 rank-and-file dockworkers over the next month.

The approval by leadership, required under union rules, will be followed by individual member balloting and the announcement of the ratification vote May 22, more than a year after negotiations began and three months after the tentative agreement was reached. A total of 78% of 90 union leaders who met for a week in San Francisco recommended approval.

Meanwhile, the laborious process of clearing a cargo backlog resulting from slowdowns and terminal congestion is continuing on the West Coast. At East Coast ports, terminal operators and truckers are dealing with cargo volumes above seasonal norms as a result of freight diversions.

“This agreement required 10 months of negotiations —the longest in recent history,” ILWU International President Bob McEllrath said in a statement. “Longshore men and women on the docks will now have the final and most important say in the process.”

Contract terms haven’t been disclosed. Before the vote occurs, union members will meet on the local level for further review of the agreement.