President Biden on Wednesday hailed the West Coast dockworker union contract as a “big deal” as automakers have a week left to make a deal with autoworkers in order to avert a strike.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) finalized a new contract covering the West Coast ports last week after a year of negotiations that involved the Biden administration. The new six-year contract includes pay raises for 22,000 workers on 29 ports.
“I’m really happy this day arrived, it’s a big deal for management, for labor, as well as the United States of America,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “To invest in American workers, who are the backbone of the country, makes sense to me. Labor contracts we celebrate today prove that.”
Biden recognized acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, whose nomination has been stalled in the Senate, saying she used her experience to keep negotiations going and helped close the deal. He stressed that the agreement covers 29 ports, which together have a “gigantic” economic impact and direct impact on inflation.
“When the cost of moving goods through supply chains goes up, inflation goes up,” the president said.
The event comes under the shadow of the the United Auto Workers (UAW) warning that they will strike if they don’t not reach a new agreement with Detroit automakers by next week.
The contracts with the Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — are set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.
Negotiations between UAW and the Big Three have been ongoing since early July over pay increases, pensions, career security and concerns over the shift to electric vehicles. The union is asking for a 46 percent pay raise and a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay, among other provisions.
Biden on Wednesday also congratulated the Teamsters for their negotiated contract with UPS last month. The agreement for a five-year contract included pay raises for drivers and the end of a tiered wage system that negatively impacted new part-time employees.
And he called for Congress to pass the PRO Act, which is dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled House and wasn’t able to move in Democrats’ narrowly held House last Congress. The sweeping legislation that would stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and strengthen protections for employees against retaliation.
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