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West Coast Ports, Dockworkers Reach Tentative Deal

A cargo container ship operated by Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. sits docked Friday at the Port of Tacoma. Negotiators for the two sides in the labor dispute that has snarled international trade at U.S. West Coast seaports reached a settlement late Friday.

West Coast ports and the labor unions that service them reached a tentative agreement Friday night, NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, potentially ending a nine-month standoff that had snarled the movement of cargo.

Most of the big aspects of a deal — wages, benefits, even maintenance contracts — have been settled for weeks, Kirk says, but some sticking points remained.

"This week the high drama seemed to be over something somewhat minor ... who has the power to hire and fire an arbitration during separate, smaller disputes," he says.

Kirk says the settlement should add some certainty to managing traffic at the ports — no more work stoppages or shutdowns like the one-day one Oakland saw earlier this week — but the backlog of cargo could take works or months to clear up. At the Port of Long Beach alone, there were 21 container ships waiting to offload Friday night.

The agreement came hours after U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez urged the two sides to reach an agreement by the end of the day.

NPR's Jasmine Garsd reported earlier today that about 50 cargo ships were anchored offshore, waiting to be unloaded, and that ships rerouted to Canada had overloaded ports in British Columbia.

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