West Coast Port Strike Ends

Ports Account For 40% Of All U.S. Container Imports

West Coast Port Strike EndsAn eight-day strike in the critical ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach ended late Tuesday, alleviating concerns among retailers that December merchandise would not arrive on time. Each day during the strike, officials estimate that $760 million worth of goods failed to move through the ports – which account for 40% of all U.S. container imports.

"Retailers have cargo that has been stuck at the port that has to get out for last-minute holiday merchandise," said Jonathan Gold, an executive at the National Retail Federation. "This is much bigger than just hitting retailers. It impacts manufacturers, farmers and others involved in the logistics industry."

Accusing management of outsourcing jobs, several hundred unionized clerical employees went on strike on November 26. Roughly 10,000 longshoremen refused to cross the picket lines, creating gridlock in the ports and forcing 20 freighters to be diverted to other points along the Pacific. With considerable damage being done to the southern California economy, city officials called in federal mediators this week to help broker a deal. The tentative agreement gives the clerical workers, who had gone without a contract for more than two years, small raises and added pension benefits, along with a guarantee from terminal operators that outsourcing will be extremely limited.

"We didn't get everything that we wanted and neither did the employer," said John Fageaux, a local union spokesperson. "Both sides were professional and we recognized we needed to make some movement to get cargo moving again," said Stephen Berry, the lead negotiator for the employers association.

Union members are expected to ratify the contract – which will run until 2016 – in about two weeks. National attention now shifts to a potential port strike on the East and Gulf Coasts, as a contract between longshoremen and the Maritime Alliance is set to expire on December 29.