With Contract Agreement Reached, West Coast Port Focus Turns to Clearing Backlog

On the evening of Feb. 20, a tentative port labor contract settlement was finally reached between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The agreement was announced in this joint news release.

The following morning, USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng released this media statement:

USMEF was very pleased to learn of the tentative agreement on a new West Coast port labor contract that was reached Friday evening. Since we began to see increasing congestion in the West Coast ports several months ago, the global customer base that the U.S. meat industry has spent decades building has been put at risk by shipping delays and by the uncertainty surrounding these contract negotiations. With nearly 80 percent of our waterborne red meat exports utilizing West Coast ports, this situation had become very damaging not only for exporters, but also for farmers, ranchers, processors and everyone in the supply chain.

We are hopeful that the parties will ratify the new contract agreement as soon as possible and clear the backlog that currently exists in several major ports, so that U.S. industries can once again serve our international customers with the confidence and reliability they deserve.

Attention now turns to the formidable task of clearing the backlog that exists in several major West Coast ports. Estimates vary on the length of time needed to bring the flow of port traffic back to customary levels, but even the most optimistic projections are in the 30 to 45-day range. It is also important to note that the tentative contract agreement did not necessary make for a smooth week of labor relations, as local disruptions were reported in the Port of Oakland and the Port of Portland.

USMEF will report further on West Coast port operations as more details become available.