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Dockworkers reach early agreement on contract extension

Dockworkers reach early agreement on contract extension
West Coast dockworkers reached an agreement Friday to ratify a three-year contract extension. (Christina House / For The Times)

Dockworkers on the West Coast approved a contract extension on Friday, two years before it was set to expire.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said in a statement that 67% of its 20,000 members at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington voted in favor of extending the contract with the Pacific Maritime Assn. to July 1, 2022. The previous agreement was set to expire July 1, 2019.

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The contract ensures an increase in wages and pensions and maintains health benefits, according to a news release.

"The rank-and-file membership has made their decision and expressed a clear choice," Robert McEllrath, International Longshore Warehouse Union international president, said in the statement. "During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides. The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances."

The agreement comes three years after contentious negotiations between the parties resulted in a backlog of cargo ships outside the harbors.

"This first-of-its-kind contract extension is great news for the maritime industry and the nation, setting the stage for reliable and productive cargo operations for years to come," Pacific Maritime Assn. President James McKenna said in a statement.

The early contract approval marks a stark contrast to 2014, when negotiations didn't start until May and the contract lapsed in July. An agreement was reached in February 2015. Port congestion from the spat posed a threat to retail supply chains, according to the National Retail Federation.

"Nobody wants to see a repeat of the problems that were experienced in 2014-2015, and this remarkable sign of good faith on the part of both labor and management ensures that such a situation will be avoided," Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement last week.

Twitter: @andangelo15

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