Business at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began to return to normal Wednesday after a tentative deal was struck late last night with striking clerical workers, whose job action had crippled port operations for eight days.

The stalemate between the association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 was broken after federal mediators arrived on the scene Tuesday in response to pleas by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and business groups such as that National Retail Federation. The proposed contract still must be ratified by workers.

About 800 clerical workers at the nation’s largest port complex went on strike Nov. 27 after negotiations broke down with the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 terminal operators and shipping agencies. A major concern of the workers was the increasing outsourcing of their jobs to other countries or job elimination by technology.

Other unions honored the picket lines, resulting in a backlog of container ships either waiting in San Pedro Bay or starting to head to alternative ports along the West Coast. The Los Angeles-Long Beach sister ports combined handle more than 40 percent of all container cargo that arrives nationwide by sea.

“I would like to thank both the employers and the union for returning to the bargaining table in earnest beginning last night and working feverishly to reach a new deal,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “The result is a contract amenable to both sides and the return to work during this holiday season for thousands of men and women who are vital to keeping our port running around the clock.”

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