Longshoremen’s Settlement Ends East and Gulf Coast Labor Dispute

Members won wage increases and protection for workers displaced by automation.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) voted to approve a new, six-year master labor contract covering port terminal operations along the East and Gulf Coast ports. The contract covers some 14,500 waterfront workers. The ILA negotiated this new Master Contract with United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), an alliance of container carriers, direct employers, and port associations serving the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

The settlement ends more than a year of negotiations between employers and the ILA. With the assistance of the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the ILA and USMX negotiated well beyond the original contract deadline of September 30, 2012, agreeing to a series of extensions to keep cargo moving and bargaining continuing rather than engage in a strike or lockout.

In the Master Contract, ILA members won wage increases totaling $3 an hour spread out over the life of the agreement that will, by the final year of the new contract, bring their hourly rate of pay to $35.00 an hour. Lower tiered workers receive an even higher wage percentage increase as their pay progression scale was shortened to six years from nine years in the new agreement. Thus, a new ILA member earning a base pay of $20.00 an hour at the start of the 6-year contract will increase to $35.00 an hour by the end of the sixth year of the contract.

"On behalf of ILA members and officers at all ports, we're thrilled this Master Contract was ratified by an overwhelming margin," said ILA President Harold J. Daggett, who served as ILA Chief Negotiator at these negotiations for the first time since he was elected International President in July 2011. "We all worked very hard, achieved landmark improvements and protected our members and our union for many years."

One major area of protection was contract language that protects ILA workers who have been displaced due to new technology and automation. ILA President Daggett announced nearly two years ago at the union's quadrennial convention where he was elected president that he would not allow automation to rob ILA members of their livelihood. In the new 6-year agreement, he won job guarantees for those ILA members displaced and a joint management-ILA committee to continually examine automation's effect on the ILA workforce.

The National Retail Federation issued the following statement from Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold:

“Today’s vote ratifying a new, long-term master labor contract is welcomed news to the nation’s retailers, who have been on pins-and-needles for the past year due to the possibility of a supply chain disruption along the 14 East and Gulf Coast container ports. … The nation’s ports are our economic lifeline to the world. Today’s vote will bring much-needed certainty and efficiency to East and Gulf Coast port operations and secure the United States’ position in the global supply chain.”




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