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1/23/2003

Port dispute over; both sides ratify contract

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The labor dispute that shuttered West Coast ports and hamstrung Pacific Rim trade last fall formally ended Wednesday when both dockworkers and shipping companies announced separately they had overwhelmingly approved a new six-year contract.

Nearly 90 percent of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members who voted approved the multi-billion dollar deal, which should bring labor peace to 29 major ports that badly need to modernize — and should do so under the pact.

Slightly more than 7,400 members voted for the deal, nearly 900 against it — the largest margin of victory for any longshoremen’s contract, according to union officials. Voter turnout was 85 percent.

“They had union meetings to question the negotiators about it and plenty of time to debate it among themselves,” said union President Jim Spinosa. “They understood the terms of the contract, the times it was negotiated in and the victory it represents.”

Union members began voting by mail earlier this month and sent bundles of ballots to San Francisco headquarters for the official count.