Sept. 6 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden welcomed leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to the White House on Wednesday, calling their new labor contract for West Coast ports "a good deal for workers."
"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," Biden told the group.
The contract covers 29 ports from San Diego, Calif., to Bellingham, Wash., which "play a major role in the nation's economy."
"More comes through those ports than any other means of getting in to the United States of America. It's a gigantic, gigantic economic impact," the president said Wednesday, as he outlined improved pay benefits for dock workers.
"That includes a guaranteed 32% pay increase over a six-year period. It also includes a one-time bonus for the dock workers' exceptional efforts during the pandemic."
Biden said workers' increased pay will ensure the U.S. supply chain remains intact, which will help the economy.
"Goods are moving quickly and efficiently across the country. Plus this has a direct impact on reducing inflation," Biden explained.
"When the cost of moving goods through supply chains goes up, inflation goes up. That's why we made fixing our supply chains to bring down inflation a top priority. And it's working," Biden said, as he claimed "inflation is down to around 3%, about one-third of what it was one year ago. That's near its lowest point in over two years."
ILWU President Willie Adams said in an Aug. 31 statement that the tentative contract agreement, which was reached in June, was ratified with 75% approval from ILWU members.
"The negotiations for this contract were protracted and challenging," Adams said. "I am grateful to our rank and file for their strength, to our Negotiating Committee for their vision and tenacity, and to those that supported giving the ILWU and PMA the space that we needed to get to this result."
The Pacific Maritime Association's statement on the ratification said the contract provides "an important framework for the hard work ahead to overcome new competitive challenges and to continue to position the West Coast ports as destinations of choice for shippers worldwide."
"From San Diego to Bellingham, these ports have long been the primary gateways for cargo coming into and leaving the United States, and our interests are aligned in ensuring they can effectively, and efficiently, handle the capacity growth that drives economies and jobs," the Union said.
According to the ILWU the six-year contract "protects good-paying jobs in 29 West Coast port communities, maintains health benefits, and improves wages, pensions and safety protections."
Pay raises for dock workers will be 32% over the six-year contract plus a one-time "hero's bonus" of $70 million shared among the 22,000 dockworkers represented by the ILWU, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Collective bargaining means everyone wins, workers, employers, our economy and consumers," Biden said Wednesday, as he also congratulated the Teamsters and UPS for ratifying a new agreement last month.
"Thanks to that contract, those workers will see significant pay increases, improved working conditions, brief relief from the heat and delivery trucks by eliminating the tier system which unfairly paid some drivers lower wages than others doing the same exact job," Biden said.
The UPS-Teamsters' labor agreement was ratified by union members on Aug. 22. It provides "large raises for full- and part-time workers, creates more full-time jobs, hires 30,000 new drivers and adds workplace protections, including air conditioning in delivery trucks."
The United Auto Workers is also pushing for significant wage increases and other improvements for autoworkers at GM, Ford and Stellantis. The deadline for that contract agreement is Sept. 15 and according to UAW President Shawn Fain, the two sides are far apart on coming to terms.
"To invest in American workers who are the backbone of the country makes sense to me," Biden said in closing Wednesday. "Labor contracts we celebrate today, prove that."