A tentative five-year labor agreement was reached last Friday between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that covers all 29 West Coast ports after nine months of negotiations.
President Barack Obama sent Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to meet with the two sides. Press reports indicate that Perez gave the two sides a Friday deadline to reach an agreement. The White House released a statement after the announcement saying, “This is great news for the parties involved in the negotiation and a huge relief for our economy – particularly the countless American workers, farmers and businesses that have been affected by the dispute and those facing even greater disruption and costs with further delays.”
The backlog at the ports was causing serious economic harm to the meat and livestock industries. Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation said, “The global customer base that the U.S. meat industry has spent decades building has been put at risk by shipping delays and by the uncertainty surrounding these contract negotiations."
The North American Meat Institute reports that the dispute and resulting slowdowns have cost the meat, poultry, hide, skin and leather industries an estimated $85 million a week. While the deal between the two sides is a crucial step to ending this slowdown, the impact will continue to be felt as it will take an estimated 30 to 45 days to clear the backlog of containers that has built up at ports along the West Coast.