West Coast Dockworkers Reach Contract Deal With Port Operators

The negotiations between the Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping terminals, have focused on disagreements over wages and the expanding role of automation. (Unionized workers at the ports have average salaries in the low six figures.) Last year, the two sides, who remained quiet on negotiations for much of the year, announced incremental agreements on areas including health care benefits.

Workers have staged a series of work slowdowns at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which in recent months have lost sizable business to ports along the Gulf and East Coasts. Cargo processing at the Port of Los Angeles, a key entry point for shipments from Asia, was down roughly 40 percent in February, compared with the year before.

For decades, up and down the West Coast, ports have created an ecosystem of jobs that span warehouses, trucking and railroads. In Oakland, for example, more than 84,000 regional jobs rely on the city’s port. Roughly 13,000 truck drivers are authorized to pick up cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Christopher S. Tang, a distinguished professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management, who studies supply chains, said it was unclear whether shipping volumes in the nation’s Pacific ports would rebound.

“Many firms have shifted their supply base from China to Southeast Asia and Mexico,” said Mr. Tang. “For many Southeast Asian countries, it is cheaper and faster to ship to the East Coast instead of the West Coast.”

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