WASHINGTON — West Coast dockworkers and shipping operators reached a tentative contract agreement late Saturday and moved another step closer to ending a labor dispute that closed the 29 major West Coast ports for 10 days in October, cost the economy billions and created anxiety for retailers trying to stock their shelves for the holidays.

Chief federal mediator Peter Hurtgen, called the deal "historic," although he declined to give details about the six-year contract, pending notification of the union and shipping firm memberships. He did say the agreement provides for improvements in wages and benefits for union members, as well as "the necessary technology to ensure the ports continue to modernize and increase efficiency and productivity."

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