Natural Foods Merchandiser

West Coast Boats are Floating

West Coast dockworkers approved a six-year contract in late January, ending a conflict that included an 11-day lockout estimated to have cost U.S. businesses more than $1 billion a day.

Union officials said the contract was approved by 90 percent of the members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Longshore Division. The contract passed 7,405 to 888, the largest approval margin for any longshoremen's contract. Ballots were cast by about 85 percent of eligible members.

"With this new agreement we'll certainly have more security than previously," said Gene Lauden, who heads Wenatchee, Wash.-based Dovex Marketing Co.'s organic division. Although he said there were difficulties getting containers immediately after the lockout ended Oct. 9, "everything's pretty much back to normal now."

Terms of the deal include no-cost health care, a 60 percent increase in pensions and a 12 percent salary hike. In exchange, union members agreed to accept new computer technology designed to speed the flow of goods through overcrowded ports. The contract gives jurisdiction over this new technology to the union—the issue that was at the core of last fall's shutdowns.

The contract affects workers at 29 West Coast ports.

Bryce Edmonds is a Boulder, Colo.-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 3/p. 12

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