Valley citrus growers feeling some relief with ports' reopening

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Twenty-nine ports from Seattle to San Diego were affected by the shutdown. (KFSN)

A tentative agreement between West Coast dockworkers and their employers was reached late Friday night after nine months of negotiations. Twenty-nine ports from Seattle to San Diego were affected by the shutdown.

It's a Saturday in Orange Cove and employees at Cecelia Packing are working well into the evening to get citrus ready for shipping. President David Roth says employees here are happy for the work after months of getting their hours cut because of shutdowns at West Coast ports.

"We're still six or eight weeks behind and that is not going to make us good for what we've already missed the last three months," said Roth.

He estimates they've lost $1 million because their fruit couldn't be exported out of the ports. Without shipment overseas, many citrus growers had to push their fruit into the domestic market, driving down the price of citrus.

"There's a glut of the market that was supposed to go export that ended up domestic and that's caused a major problem," said Roth.

The conflict at the ports started in July of last year after the expiration of a six-year contract. The dockworkers and their employers couldn't compromise on a new contract mainly because of allegations of work slowdowns and other conflicts involving port employees. Finally on Friday, the two sides met in the middle.

"The companies have committed to reopen the ports, open the doors, get all the shifts working so the workers can get in there and make sure that folks get the containers that they have been waiting so long for," said Craig Merrilees, spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Roth says even though the ports are back open, it'll still take about six to eight weeks to get everything back to normal, right as the citrus season comes to an end.

Union employees will still need to ratify the contract but they are working tonight.

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agricultureag watchfresno countycaliforniaOrange Cove
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