Oakland, California — The seaports of the West Coast went from lagging to bustling over the weekend, a process that is expected to accelerate Monday in the wake of a tentative agreement between employers and dockworkers.
More than 1,000 dockworker assignments were filled Sunday at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, more than double the number of recent Sundays. More than 2,000 were expected to be filled on Monday, port officials said.
At more than two dozen other West Coast ports from Washington to California work was mostly back to normal, with additional orders for labor especially at the larger ports to make up for a backlog caused by a monthlong contract dispute.
The only snag in the resumption of work was an apparent slowdown Sunday among dockworkers in Oakland, but even that appeared to be over by the evening shift after an arbitrator's orders.
"We've got five vessels being loaded and unloaded, and another three scheduled for operations," Port of Oakland spokesman Mike Zampa said.
His tone had shifted markedly from earlier in the day when he said port officials were "bitterly disappointed" at labor slowdowns that were "just not right" after a tentative agreement was reached with maritime companies on Friday.
An arbitrator had ordered a return to work on the 7 p.m. night shift after finding that longshoremen in the San Francisco Bay Area took part in illegal work stoppages that included taking breaks at the same time, among other actions reducing productivity.
Employers dismissed those employees for the day.
Melvin Mackay, a spokesman for the local union branch that covers Oakland, did not return a call for comment.
A tentative deal was struck late Friday. By Saturday night, workers in Oakland and the other ports were starting to clear the backlog.
West Coast seaports handle roughly one-quarter of U.S. international trade, an amount worth about $1 trillion annually.
It will take several months for ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach — the nation's largest — to clear the backlog, which swelled as the two sides quarreled over a new deal.
"There's a lot of work to do and a limited labor pool. But it's being distributed between the two ports and the cargo containers between both LA and Long Beach as equitably as possible," Phillip Sanfield said.