The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) are starting work on a new waterfront labor contract for workers at 29 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington, as the current six-year contract expires on July 1.

PMA represents cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores operating on the West Coast, with ILWU representing some 25,000 workers at those 29 ports.

Jim McKenna, president of PMA, said improving productivity continues to be a major goal of the West Coast ports. “We’ve made progress since 2002 to improve productivity, which has enabled us to add jobs at the West Coast ports, handle a 45% cargo surge and transform the ports into an economic powerhouse that is now responsible for 12% of the nation’s gross domestic product and more than seven million American jobs,” he said. “However, there is more work to do to increase efficiency and implement technology and other workplace innovations that will help the ports meet increasing national and international competition.”

ILWU president Bob McEllrath noted that safety and pay remain top priorities for longshoremen. “Longshore workers are concerned about growing more good jobs for working families, improving safety conditions to reduce deaths and serious injuries, and pushing for cleaner air on the docks and communities where we live and work,” he said.