The employer group suggested in its latest statement that the two sides were pretty close.
"To date, the ILWU and PMA have reached tentative agreements on health care and increases to pay guarantees," the managment group said. "That tentative agreement provides fully employer-paid health care benefits valued at $35,000 per worker annually. PMA also has proposed pay increases and pension enhancements."
So what's the remaining problem?
Neither side will specifically say, but cost-conscious port employers have always chaffed at union jurisdiction and work rules that reserve jobs for the union and limit attempts at automation. Remember, a good portion of these employers are foreign ship lines with operations throughout the world. They consider American longshoremen, making an average of $147,000 a year on the West Coast, very expensive.
Employers staged a lockout in 2002. Those 10 days cost the economy upwards of $1 billion a day by some estimates. The White House had to order the ports reopened. A recent study suggested another lockout would double those costs if it went longer than 20 days.