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Retailers say early West Coast port contract would bring needed 'stability and predictability'

"We hope the parties will continue future agreements in a similar manner."

NRF VP Jonathan Gold

WASHINGTON – The National Retail Federation today welcomed reports that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association appear close to extending their existing contract at West Coast ports nearly two full years before it is set to expire.

“We applaud ILWU members for taking the unprecedented step of approving a contract extension well in advance of the contract expiration,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “This agreement between the ILWU and PMA will provide the stability and predictability that NRF’s members and other supply chain stakeholders need to move their cargo efficiently through our ports.”

“Nobody wants to see a repeat of the problems that were experienced in 2014-2015, and this remarkable sign of good faith on the part of both labor and management ensures that such a situation will be avoided,” Gold said. “We hope the parties will continue future negotiations in a similar manner.”

The ILWU announced today that its 20,000 members at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have finished voting on a tentative contract agreement reached this spring with the PMA. Early reporting from locals indicated that the contract will be approved with 67 percent of the vote, the union said.

The current agreement is set to expire on July 1, 2019, but would be extended until July 1, 2022, if the ratification is approved as expected. The new agreement raises wages, maintains health benefits and increases pensions.

Approval of the three-year extension two years early would be in sharp contrast to 2014, when negotiations didn’t begin until May of that year and the contact was allowed to lapse in July. Workers stayed on the job without a contract, but contentious talks led to slowdowns, cargo backups and other problems until an agreement was finally reached in February 2015 after then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down with labor and management to broker an agreement. Port congestions during the period posed significant threats to retail supply chains – particularly during the 2014 holiday season – and NRF urged both parties to begin negotiations on the next contract well in advance.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.