Port shutdown narrowly avoided as West Coast labor contract is finally reached

West Coast ports avoided shutdown when dockworkers and shipping companies reached a new contract agreement.

West Coast ports avoided shutdown when dockworkers and shipping companies reached a new contract agreement.

According to the Los Angeles Times, shipping companies and dockworkers tentatively agreed to a new labor contract late last week, avoiding the shutdown of 29 West Coast ports. A shutdown of that magnitude would have seriously disrupted world trade and United States retailers.

The contract still needs to be officially approved by the union members and individual employers, but the agreement should help to end the congestion issues that have been plaguing the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, among others.

The new contract, if put into effect, will be for five years and include about 20,000 West Coast dock-working employees, all of whom have been negotiating since May of last year and without a contract since July. The effects of the tense negotiations were felt throughout the U.S. and the world, as imports were stuck at sea and exports were being held on land.

"We heard from small-business owners, large-business owners, farmers who couldn't get their produce or their meat to market," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters this weekend. "This is now in the rear-view mirror. A significant potential head wind for this economic recovery has been removed."

The new contract won't resolve port congestion immediately, and it's likely that West Coast docks will not be fully rid of backlog for several months. However, workers, shipping companies and retailers are all glad to have the negotiations finished.

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