West Coast Dockworkers, Washington Terminal Reach Overdue Deal

(Bloomberg) — The union representing dockworkers across 29 West Coast ports reached a collective-bargaining agreement with a grain terminal in Washington state after four years of negotiations, a week before a separate process for labor talks with other employers start.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached the accord over grain handling at Washington’s Port of Vancouver with United Grain Corp., which employs more than 100 people, the two parties said in a joint statement Thursday. The talks began in 2018.

“Negotiations are never easy,” said ILWU Coast Committeeman Cam Williams, chair of the union’s negotiating team. But “in the end we reached an agreement that maintains good jobs for US workers and strong exports for US farmers.”

UGC Chief Executive Officer Augusto Bassanini said that the agreement helps the Vancouver-based operator achieve its “long-sought” goal of leveling the playing field with other grain exporters.

The announcement comes a week before the ILWU and employers — represented by the Pacific Maritime Association — sit down to hammer out a new labor contract for 22,000 West Coast dockworkers starting May 12.

When the two parties last got together to discuss contracts in 2014, West Coast ports faced months of slowdowns that only ended when the White House got involved. As they sit down to negotiate the contract set to expire on July 1, workers are seen as having additional leverage as carriers report record profits in a tight market.

In October, the ILWU reached another agreement with Rotterdam-based Louis Dreyfus Co., which operates a grain terminal at the Port of Seattle.

Local union members will now vote on the pact in the upcoming weeks.

©2022 Bloomberg LP