The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports. The agreement signals a possible end to the port backups that have stalled the export of poultry, pork and other agricultural products.
"We’re pleased that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement and hope that it’s quickly ratified by the rank and file of the ILWU. Port congestion on the West Coast has been costly for our industry, and has caused most U.S. poultry and egg exporters to ship their products to Asia via alternative ports on the East Coast," the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) said in a statement.
Numerous agricultural industry groups had urged an end to the negotiations, including USAPEEC, National Pork Producers Council, American Feed Industry Association, Association of California Egg Farmers, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute and Pacific Egg and Poultry Association. Those groups, among dozens of other food and agriculture organizations, earlier in 2015 had written an open letter to the White House, congressional lawmakers, the PMA and the ILWU, stressed the importance of resolving the negotiations because of the adverse effects it was having on the agricultural and U.S. economy.
The deal was reached with assistance from U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh. The parties will not be releasing details of the agreement at this time. The agreement is subject to ratification by both parties.
“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry. We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob McEllrath in a joint statement.