U.S.: West Coast port workers expected to approve contact extension

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U.S.: West Coast port workers expected to approve contact extension

West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have competed votes on a three-year contract extension with their employer, with indications that it will be passed. 

A release from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) said local unions were reporting the extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) would be approved by 67%.

The contract was scheduled to expire on July 1, 2019, but if ratified it will expire on July 1, 2022.

The union's Coast Balloting Committee will announce the official results on August 4.

ILWU members voted on the employer's "unprecedented contract extension proposal after a year-long debate and democratic process" in which every worker had a chance to vote, the release said.

The organization said the extension would raise wages, maintain health benefits and increase pensions.

"The ILWU was founded on the principes of democracy, and the rank-and-file have always had the last word on their contracts," ILWU international president Robert McEllrath said.

"There was no shortage of differing views during the year-long debate leading up to this vote, and members didn't take this step lightly. In the end, members made the final decision to extend the contract for three years."

PMA president James McKenna said the agreement was "great news" for the maritime industry.

“With this contract extension, the West Coast waterfront has a tremendous opportunity to attract more market share and demonstrate that our ports and our workforce are truly world-class," he said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with ILWU President Bob McEllrath in the months ahead to ensure that the West Coast sets the standard for service and efficiency, and is the destination of choice for cargo entering and exiting the United States.”

Port of Oakland executive director Chris Lytle said: "This shows that the West Coast means business."

“We feel that a decision to extend the contract reflects improving relations and performance up and down the West Coast,” he said.

Contentious negotiations between the two parties in 2014 and 2015 lasted for months and resulted in severe disruption at West Coast ports. The dispute was only resolved after the White House intervened in February 2015.

The ILWU Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the U.S. West Coast.


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