While the West Coast port strike may shave one percent off the fourth quarter’s GDP when numbers are revealed February 27, the short-term impacts of the work stoppage are easier to measure. Countless goods, such as fresh fruit ready for shipment to Asia and festive décor to celebrate the Chinese New Year, languished in warehouses, docks and cargo ships at 29 ports on the U.S. West Coast, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The reason? A nine-month contract dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 workers, and their employers, the Pacific Maritime Association.
With the help of Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who was dispatched to San Francisco by President Barack Obama last week to mediate an agreement, a breakthrough in negotiations ending the protracted labor dispute was reached Friday. Normal operations resumed Saturday evening, although the pace of loading and unloading cargo ships has been painstakingly slow.
Countless vessels overflowing with goods have been languishing offshore of the 29 ports while products waiting to be loaded on those ships clogged warehouses and docks up and down the West Coast. The deal awaits approval of the labor union.
Industry analysts have been quoted as saying the cargo ship congestion caused by the extended work stoppage will take months to clear. Businesses and industries have lost millions as the dispute continued.
In a sign of unity, the president of the labor union and the head of the Pacific Maritime Association released a joint statement hailing the agreement late Friday.
“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” they said. “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”
Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer.