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Retailers Breathe Easier as West Coast Ports Reach Labor Deal

Online merchants who rely on inventory from overseas can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to a new labor deal reached between dockworkers and shipping companies. An ongoing labor dispute at ports on the West Coast had created enormous disruptions in the delivery of goods, with container ships idled at sea while the movement of freight out of the ports slowed to a crawl.

Reuters cited the intervention of US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who had only recently joined in the negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Pacific Maritime Association. The agreement should see port operations restored to their normal level.

Details of the new five-year contract between the two sides aren’t being disclosed. A joint statement from the two organizations said the deal would cover workers at all 29 West Coast ports, and is still subject to ratification by both parties.

The National Retail Federation recently noted how import volume continues to rise, making the prospect of an ongoing work slowdown or even a complete stoppage a remarkable threat to the economy.

“The last thing we need is a port shutdown that would bring billions of dollars of economic activity to a halt,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

Global trade makes it possible for ecommerce pros and all facets of retail to obtain goods cheaply from overseas suppliers. Delayed shipments eventually reach down the whole supply chain and impact consumers, who likely only blame the seller and not the process for problems in receiving merchandise.

Now that the prospect of normal deliveries of goods looks resolved, online sellers will want to address any impact these delays may have had on their businesses. It may be time for boosting one’s online ad budget or email marketing for a brief time to make valuable customers aware that they are back to business as usual.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.