Containers unloaded at Port of Long Beach
Containers are unloaded at the Port of Long Beach. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Longshoremen have ratified a six-year contract that improved pay and benefits for 22,000 employees at 29 ports stretching from California to Washington State.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) made the announcement on Thursday.

Members of the ILWU voted 75% in favor of approving the West Coast port worker agreement that will expire on July 1, 2028. 

The deal, which is retroactive to July 1, 2022, includes a 32% pay increase over the span of the contract as well as a one-time bonus for working through the early days of the COVID pandemic.

Longshore workers covered by the agreement are based at some of the nation’s busiest seaports, including Los Angeles/Long Beach, the busiest ocean trade gateway in the U.S.

The union and the Pacific Maritime Association employer group reached a tentative deal in June. That ended 13 months of talks and eased worries that related West Coast port disruptions could hit the all-important retail holiday shipping season.

“The negotiations for this contract were protracted and challenging,” ILWU International President Willie Adams said in a statement. “I am grateful to our rank and file for their strength, to our negotiating committee for their vision and tenacity, and to those that supported giving the ILWU and PMA the space that we needed to get to this result.”

West Coast ports lost some business to U.S. rivals on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico as extended talks fueled uncertainty.

“This contract brings long-term stability and confidence to our customers as we re-double our efforts to bring more cargo back to the Port of Los Angeles, the premier gateway to and from the Pacific Rim,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a news release.

The new contract also provides a framework “to overcome new competitive challenges,” said Jim McKenna, CEO of the maritime association.

“From San Diego to Bellingham, these ports have long been the primary gateways for cargo coming into and leaving the United States, and our interests are aligned in ensuring they can effectively and efficiently handle the capacity growth that drives economies and jobs,” he added.

– Staff and wire services contributed to this report

Updated 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2023