Unless something unexpected occurs during voting on a new West Coast port labor contract, a new six-year agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents laborers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents port employers, will soon take effect.
The landmark contract allows major improvements in the technology used at the ports, which was the key objective for the PMA in the often-bitter negotiations. The two sides reached agreement in late November and the pact received support of 92 percent of the delegates at a union caucus last month. Union members were to vote on the contract this month, with results expected before the month is out.
After the agreement was announced, PMA President and CEO Joseph Miniace said in a prepared statement, "The technology that will be coming to the ports will be good for the economy and likely will play a critical role in America's national security efforts."
During the talks, the PMA briefly locked out union members. The lockout, and what employers claimed was a slowdown by workers at the ports, caused a considerable backlog in the movement of goods out of the ports, which cost some shippers millions of dollars. The lockout ended when President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, which forced the ports to open and mandated continuation of the talks. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service played a major role in pushing the two sides toward an agreement.