Logjam Over? Deal Struck on Labor Dispute at Ports
It could still take weeks to get caught up, however
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 21, 2015 8:27 AM CST
A cargo ship operated by Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. at the Port of Tacoma, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, in Tacoma, Wash.    (Ted S. Warren)
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(Newser) – You might be able find the right size jeans this spring after all: Negotiators have reached a tentative contract covering West Coast dockworkers, likely ending a protracted labor dispute that snarled international trade at seaports handling about $1 trillion worth of cargo annually. The breakthrough came after nine months of talks that turned contentious in the fall, when dockworkers and their employers began blaming each other for problems getting imports to consumers and exports overseas. The tentative contract reached yesterday evening still must be approved by the 13,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union's rank-and-file. They work 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle that handle about one-quarter of all US international trade, much of it with Asia.

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who this week began overseeing talks in San Francisco—where both the union and maritime association of employers are based—said that both the dockworkers' union and their employers agreed to resume work this evening. As the two sides quarreled, employers cut most weekend work, saying they would not pay extra wages. Dozens of ships laden with a you-name-it range of imported goods are using waters off the ports as parking lots. It will take weeks—and probably months—to unblock that traffic jam, as well as the gridlock of containers already on the docks.