UPDATE: ILWU, PMA Leaders Reach Tentative Agreement, Ending Nine Month Stalemate

UPDATE by Long Beach Post Staff  |  After nine months of contract negotiations, leading to slowdowns and suspensions of operations at 29 West Coast ports, including the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have reached a tentative agreement.

“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob McEllrath in a joint statement. “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia released the following statement:

"Getting this deal done means our ports and our national economy will start moving again. This settlement is great news for our west coast ports, our local workforce, and businesses around the country.

"I want to personally thank the President and the Secretary of Labor for their effective intervention and leadership in helping the parties reach a resolution. I also want to thank my colleagues, the port city mayors, for their persistent engagement in this process, and the shippers and dockworkers for reaching this agreement."

Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup had this to say:

"The Port of Long Beach welcomes the tentative contract agreement announced today and is especially grateful to President Obama, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Federal Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh whose leadership and direct involvement were key in reaching this pact. We thank the ILWU and PMA and look forward to everyone getting back to business as usual starting immediately. We know that the marine terminal operators, longshore workers, truckers, railroads and others will be extremely busy as they work to clear out the massive backlog of cargo at all of the West Coast ports, including Long Beach. All of us will be working together to make this happen as soon as possible, but once again, we are extremely pleased with today’s news."

Senator Ricardo Lara, who was recently reappointed Chair of the California Senate Select Committee on Ports & Goods Movement, released the following statement:

"I’m relieved that today’s agreement between ILWU and PMA ends a labor stalemate that resulted in severe congestion at Pacific ports, billions of dollars in losses to our economy and uncertainty for working families. It’s time for all parties involved to move forward and get our port operations back on track. We need to work diligently and swiftly to remove empty containers, bring in idling ships, distribute goods and expedite the shipment of our agricultural commodities. Let’s show the world that our California ports are open for business!"

The National Retail Federation also issued the following statement from President and CEO Matthew Shay:

“We congratulate the ILWU and PMA for finally coming to agreement on a new labor contract. It is now time for the parties to quickly ratify the deal and immediately focus on clearing out the crisis-level congestion and backlog at the ports.

“We also thank Secretary Perez and the administration for engaging the parties on this critically important economic and supply chain priority.

“The congestion, slowdowns and suspensions over the last few months have had a significant economic impact on the entire supply chain and those who rely on the West Coast ports to move their goods and products around the world and throughout the country. The agricultural, manufacturing, retailing and transportation industries have all suffered due to the nine-month long contract negotiations.

“As we welcome today’s news, we must dedicate ourselves to finding a new way to ensure that this nightmare scenario is not repeated again. If we are to truly have modern international trade, supply chain and transportation systems, we must develop a better process for contract negotiations moving forward. We must commit whatever resources necessary to ensure that this will not happen again.”

Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, who represents the 70th Assembly District and was recently appointed as Chairman to the Select Committee on Ports, released the following statement:

“I am thrilled to hear that the ILWU and PMA negotiations have come to a successful close. This deal returns all 29 West Coast ports to full operation and ensures predictability for the thousands of workers, terminal operators, and port officials.

"My district is home to the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the nation’s two busiest cargo hubs. The twin ports generate over one million regional jobs and are central to the local economy. Failure to reach an agreement would have created lasting economic pain in my community, the state of California, and the entire nation.

"As Chair of the Select Committee on Ports, I commend both sides for working through their differences. Now that negotiations have come to an end, it is time to focus on resolving port congestion, the successful movement of cargo and commerce, and workers working.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe also made the following statement:

"Businesses, small and large, local and international, are breathing a sigh of relief on the news that a tentative deal has finally been reached between shippers and dockworkers operating at several U.S. ports, including the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports located in the Fourth District of Los Angeles County.  The impasse we have experienced over the last month is a reminder of the economic and global trade significance of our ports to this region and to the nation.  While a short-term impact on business was evident by the armada we were seeing in the ports, an even bigger concern was the potential long-term loss of business to ports located in other parts of the U.S.  The resumption of normal operations may take several weeks, but we must do everything possible to get back to work and show that our international trade gateway is back open for business.”

The tentative agreement must still be approved by the ILWU's membership. Details on the terms of the deal were not immediately available. This story will be updated as we learn more.

PREVIOUSLY: ILWU, PMA Leaders Will Be Summoned to Washington if Negotiations Are Not Resolved Today

1:36PM  |  Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, sent by President Obama to expedite the close of the ongoing negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), has announced that today, Friday February 20, is the deadline for a settlement between the two parties; if they cannot come to an agreement, they will be called to Washington, D.C. to continue their talks there.

Mayor Robert Garcia issued a statement today regarding Perez’ decision, saying “I fully support this action and I have also been in contact with both sides urging them to move past the single remaining issue of contention and get back to moving the world's goods through our port and driving our nation's—and our city's—economy.”

Both parties are said to have resolved all issues, such as healthcare and pay, yet remain in a disagreement over how an arbitrator will be utilized to enforce the soon-to-be-agreed-upon contract.

PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a February 9 press release that the ILWU is seeking to change the rules regarding how an arbitrator can be fired. According to the PMA, currently, when a contract is in place, once an arbitrator is hired he or she can only be removed if both the PMA and the ILWU are in agreement. The ILWU is now seeking the right to fire the arbitrator without the PMA's approval, a move with the PMA leadership fears will lead to retaliation from the ILWU against arbitrators who rule in the PMA's favor during future disputes. During the 2008-2014 contract period, arbitrators handled over 250 labor disputes, according to the PMA.

Mayor Garcia, California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and other U.S. and California representatives have been publicly urging the two parties all week to resolve their differences as soon as possible. While most are understanding of the fact that dockworkers and shippers deserve to find the best terms of agreement for their members, at this point, the work stoppages and slowdowns, largely caused by these ongoing negotiations, are having a negative impact on the economy. Businesses across the country are having to cope with a lack of products and a loss of revenue, said Mayor Garcia, as ships idle in the harbor waiting to be unloaded.

Janice Hahn, Congresswoman for the 44th District, released a statement on her Facebook page this morning, blaming the current situation exclusively on the PMA.

"The nighttime and weekend lockouts have brought the movement of goods to a standstill," she said. "There are 27 ships outside our ports carrying thousands of containers waiting to be unloaded but cargo movement at our ports is at a record low. PMA's actions not only hurt our local workers, they hurt our businesses and consumers across the country and inflict needless pain on our nation’s economy.

"There is absolutely no reason that contract negotiations should cause this level of disruption to our economy and the supply chain," Hahn continued. "During contract negotiations at our airports, planes continue to fly. During contract negotiations at our railroads, trains continue to run. I am confident that the men and women who work at the docks are committed to moving this cargo as efficiently as possible even though they do not have a contract."

Garcia concluded in his statement, saying that “[i]t is critical that everyone gets back to work at full capacity immediately. That's why, along with other west coast mayors, I've been in daily communication with the negotiating parties, urging them to reach an agreement - and I'll continue to do that until there is a settlement. [...] Now is the time to find a compromise on that point and get our goods and our economy moving.”

Or as he put it more succinctly on his Facebook page last night, "Enough is enough, let's get this done."



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