By Mark Edward Nero
By majority vote on Aug. 11, more than 100 delegates representing International Longshore and Warehouse Union members at ports along the US West Coast voted to enter into discussions with representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association regarding a contract extension.
The extension would be to the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and PMA that was ratified in May 2015. The agreement, which was announced in February of last year, came together after nine months of occasionally contentious talks between the union and management.
The current contract, which was made retroactive to July 1, 2014, runs through June 30, 2019.
It was the employer group that made the initial request to discuss the possibility of an extension to the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement. The more than 100 delegates representing ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington convened last week to consider and approve the request.
With the consent, union leadership will now meet with the PMA and report the initial results back to membership.
“The caucus made a tough decision under current circumstances amid a wide range of concerns and opposing views on how to respond to PMA’s request,” ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said in a statement. “This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind.”
Negotiations regarding the previous contract extension didn’t begin until weeks before the contract’s July 1, 2014 expiration and dragged on several months before an agreement was eventually hammered out.