Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are crucial workers at U.S. export grain elevators. Overseas wheat buyers in the Asia-Pacific region likely recall the challenges faced in 2015 during a lengthy contract negotiation that occasionally interrupted the West Coast supply chain. Although the dispute was finally settled with a contract through June 2019, trade organizations representing shippers like the Pacific Grain Exporters Association and transportation providers encouraged the parties to consider negotiating a longer-term agreement.
On Aug. 4, union longshore workers at 29 ports in Oregon, California and Washington ratified a new, three-year contract extension with the PMA. The contract virtually eliminates the possibility of a labor-related disruption through July 1, 2022. The contract also increases wages along with health and pension benefits.
The new contract clearly adds operational stability to Pacific Northwest ports that loaded more than 13 MMT of U.S. wheat exports in marketing year 2016/17, representing almost 48 percent of total U.S. overseas sales. Along with the U.S. government’s commitment to continuous improvement of the Columbia-Snake River System, USW believes this is very good news for overseas wheat buyers and U.S. farmers.