September 6, 2023

Biden hails ratification of West Coast dockworker contract


WASHINGTON — Recent success by maritime and trucking labor unions is contributing to lower inflation and making the U.S. economy stronger, according to President Joe Biden.

Biden made that case on Wednesday in remarks delivered in the State Dining Room at the White House.

“I want to thank both sides for working through this and getting it done,” Biden said, referring to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), whose tentative six-year agreement covering 29 West Coast ports was ratified by ILWU rank and file on Aug. 31.

“It’s a good deal for workers, it’s a good deal for companies, and it’s a good deal for the United States of America.”

The ILWU-PMA contract includes a guaranteed 32% pay increase over the course of the contract and a one-time “hero bonus” — reportedly $70 million — for working through the pandemic.

“With this agreement, [dockworkers] are being paid what they deserve and goods are moving quickly and efficiently across the country,” Biden said.

“Plus, this has a direct impact on reducing inflation. When the cost of moving goods through the supply chains goes up, inflation goes up. Strengthening supply chains … inflation goes down. That’s why we’ve made fixing our supply chains to bring down inflation a top priority. And it’s working.”

Biden also recognized the Teamsters’ ratification of a five-year collective bargaining agreement with UPS, which occurred nine days before West Coast dockworkers approved their contract. The UPS Teamsters contract will allow senior full-time drivers to earn approximately $170,000 a year in wages and benefits, with part- and full-time workers getting $7.50 more in hourly wages over the life of the contract.

“With this historic contract, our Teamsters are going to continue to deliver UPS goods across the country, and our supply chains will continue working the way they should,” Biden said.

The labor agreements build on other actions taken by his administration, Biden noted, including the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that he signed last year. The legislation was passed in part to address severe price increases by foreign container ship operators, which Biden asserted last year — and repeated on Wednesday — had boosted the rate for shipping a container by as much as $1,000 during the pandemic.

“Since then we’ve seen ocean shipping container rates come down to near pre-pandemic levels,” Biden said.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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