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West Coast Dock Dispute Over

San Francisco – The protracted labor dispute at 29 West Coast ports that caused months of inventory bottlenecks has finally been settled.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) voted overwhelming on Friday to ratify a new five-year contract that provides 20,000 good-paying jobs and maintains current benefits.

The agreement, which was tentatively reached in February, involved “some of the longest and most difficult” negotiations in the union’s recent history, said ILWU International president Robert McEllrath.

The delays also created headaches for CE dealers awaiting shipments from Asia. Walmart and Sam’s Club said port congestion hurt in-stock positions of TVs and other CE products, contributing to soft tech sales during the last quarter, while comp sales at Conn’s were impacted through mid-April by tight furniture inventory.

Not surprisingly, the National Retail Federation (NRF) lauded the new West Coast port pact. “At long last the year-long contract dispute between the ILWU and PMA [Pacific Maritime Assoc.] has come to an end,” observed Jonathan Gold, the trade group’s supply chain and customs policy VP.

But he warned that retailers “will no longer tolerate” the slowdowns and stoppages that marked the recent round of talks, and that negotiators need to begin their discussions early enough to have an agreement in place well before another contract expires.

“Stakeholders cannot afford to go through this process every couple of years,” he said.

Jon Lucas, president of CIT Commercial Services, added in a TWICE opinion piece that manufacturers must also be proactive in minimizing future supply chain disruptions through contingency planning.