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Union caucus recommends dockworkers approve tentative contract

Dockworker caucus votes to recommend approval of tentative deal with shipping companies

A dockworkers caucus recommended that union members approve a tentative labor agreement with shipping companies that ended months of labor strife at West Coast ports.

Seventy-eight percent of caucus delegates voted Friday for approval of the five-year proposal,  the International Longshore & Warehouse Union said. The proposed contract agreement was reached in late February after nine months of negotiations.

The contract for about 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports will now go before union members for ratification. Those votes will be tallied May 22, the union said.

The contract negotiations were the most contentious in more than a decade.

The protracted labor dispute — along with equipment shortages and various changes in the shipping industry — led to severe delays at major West Coast ports.  Dozens of ships backed up off the nation's busiest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, unable to dock.

San Francisco Bay also turned into a floating ship parking lot, as did the waters outside the ports of Tacoma, Wash., and Seattle.

The delays caused major headaches for businesses as sales were lost while imports languished at sea and exports on land.

The union and the shipping companies’ representative, the Pacific Maritime Assn., reached a tentative deal Feb. 20. At the time, port officials said it could take up to three months to clear the backlog at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Delays persist, although the ports have since made progress. 

On Friday morning, there were 13 ships anchored off the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, unable to dock, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. That compares to about 30 just before a tentative deal was reached.

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