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US West Coast Ports Working Again



For VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

West Coast ports in the United States are busy again. Recently, negotiators reached a version of a settlement in a nine-month labor dispute and work slowdown. Now that goods again are being unloaded the dockworkers and employers say they can talk about long-term problems.

Many ships have been docked or have been waiting offshore at 29 West Coast ports. Thousands of containers on those ships are waiting to be unloaded and transported across the U.S. Port officials say it will take months to process all the cargo, or goods. Most dockworkers returned to work while negotiations for the five-year contract continued.

Craig Merrilees is with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. He said some of the hard issues included outsourcing good jobs, or moving them elsewhere. Workers say administrative jobs at the ports have been moving to other states and other countries. Workers also say they worry about increasing automation of port operations, which reduces the need for people.

Many businesses depend on goods passing through the ports, including beer makers that use imported hops, produce coming to the U.S., and farmers with crops to ship overseas. The labor dispute began in July when a labor agreement ended. The work stoppage has affected 29 West Coast ports for months and slowed U.S. trade with Asia. Those ports process more than 25 percent of all U.S. sea trade and more than 70 percent of the nation's imports from Asia.