LOS ANGELES (AP) — Maritime companies are making their case for a new labor contract directly to West Coast dockworkers, hoping the rank-and-file will pressure union negotiators to reach a deal that would let billions of dollars of cargo now stuck at West Coast ports flow freely again.

Employers on Wednesday distributed letters at major ports from Los Angeles to Washington state that detailed what they called their last, best and final contract offer.

Meanwhile, negotiators for the maritime association of employers and dockworkers’ union met with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in San Francisco.

The involvement of the nation’s top labor official underscored rising political and economic pressure to reach a contract deal and free cargo bottlenecks at 29 ports that handle about $1 trillion of trade annually.

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