What the looming port strike is really about
by Michelle Malkin
columnist
December 24, 2012 12:00 AM | 970 views | 2 2 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin
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It’s not about jobs. It’s not about safety. It’s not about improving dockworkers’ living standards. The looming, long-planned East and Gulf Coast port strikes are about protecting Big Labor’s archaic work practices and corrupt waterfront rackets.

Are you ready for a fiscal cliff? The union bosses of an estimated 14,500 workers at 15 ports are preparing to send the economy plunging back into recession over productivity and efficiency rules changes. You read that right. Much more on that in a moment. But first, here’s what’s at stake.

The International Longshoremen’s Association’s (ILA) grip extends from Boston to Texas to Florida and all points across the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The New York-New Jersey ports — which handle cargo valued at $208 billion — could come to a standstill. National Retail Federation executive Jonathan Gold issued a desperate statement: “The last thing the economy needs right now is another strike, which would impact all international trade and commerce at the nation’s East and Gulf Coast container ports. This is truly a ‘container cliff’ in the making.”

Retailers have begged Big Labor-lovin’ President Obama to intervene. Good luck with that. The cozy White House powwow with union bosses immediately after Election Day tells you all you need to know about which side Obama champions.

The United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents 14 Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, has been bracing for a union-spearheaded shutdown since the summer, when labor negotiations fell apart. The ILA’s current contract expired on Sept. 30. Federal mediators granted a 90-day extension that ends on Dec. 29. ILA President Harold Daggett won a unanimous green light earlier this month to call a strike if industry leaders don’t give in completely to the union’s demands. According to my sources, despite overwhelming industry concessions on wages and benefits, port watchers view the likelihood of a strike at “probably 70 to 85 percent now.”

Don’t believe the union sob stories. ILA members are among the highest paid union workers in the country. Starting pay for dockworkers is $20 an hour, with a top straight-time pay rate of $32 an hour. Longevity and overtime bonuses are generous, with ILA members earning an average of more than $124,000 a year in wages and benefits.

The sticking points of the heated ILA-USMX talks are “container royalties” (a fee per ton of containerized cargo that carriers pay to ILA members) and “customs and practice.” On the New York-New Jersey waterfront, union racketeers have turned archaic work rules into a corrupt system of patronage tied to organized crime. Reporter Carl Horowitz of the National Legal and Policy Center broke down the container royalty dispute this fall: “In 2011 these royalties amounted to $232 million or about $15,500 per worker at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. This arrangement was established in 1960 when New York Longshoremen sought to protect themselves against job losses resulting from the introduction of automated cargo container weighing. It’s been a ticket for inefficiency.”

In other words, it’s a ridiculously outdated surcharge on business to cushion the blow of modernity to workers. Unions, of course, siphon off a large chunk of the royalties — more than $20 million last year alone, according to the Supply Chain Digest. The trade publication points out that “ILA workers receiving those hefty checks today have no real connection to the perceived threat from container traffic to manually loaded freight and handling work that started the whole program in the 1960s.”

USMX hasn’t even called for eliminating the outdated fees. It just wants to cap them. Under the industry’s contract proposal, ILA’s average hourly rate would increase to more than $55, including overtime and container royalty. Workers would still not be required to pay premiums on their health care plans like most private employers now require their workers to do.

But the union won’t budge, and it is screaming bloody murder over attempts to rein in other inefficiencies.

The additional “customs and practice” that the ILA seeks to preserve are a recipe for corruption. Don’t take industry’s word for it. This was the conclusion this year of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. Decades of favoritism, nepotism and Mafia-friendly hiring practices have bred inefficient and criminal conditions that benefit “a privileged few.” The union protects no-show and no-work jobs, 24-hour paid work for 8-hour-a-day-or-less clerks, and unlimited paid vacation for shop stewards. ILA has demanded that multiple crane operators be paid for the work of a single operator. And the commission’s hearings exposed ILA bosses tied to mobsters and family members being paid more than $400,000 a year for up to 27 hours a day.

Union bosses and their Occupy Wall Street henchmen will be ratcheting up their rhetoric about “greed” and “fat cats” as they move to ring in the New Year by bringing the American economy to its knees. Now you know the rest of the story.

Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010).
Comments
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tsm
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December 24, 2012
i didn't think you would post my comment as you not interested in education your into deception
tsm
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December 24, 2012
here's some facts so you don't sound so uneducated. Longshoreman die more than firefighters. We walk gangways 5 storys high just to get to our work when we get there 33 lbs lashing bars are waiting, this we do so the ship won't loose cargo at sea, on the dock we will lift 16 to 22lb cones. a cone connects two containers together, we place 220 containers with 4 pockets each this is 880 cones over your head with twisting actions. we work in snow, rain, high, winds, and burning heat, so you can have toilet paper and spam we fly onto the top of containers tie into the crane lean over the side 12 to 15 storys high from the water, to unlock containers. - heres a comment - walk a mile in our shoes before you in your cozy space make your uneducated comments, get to know us, ask a longshoreman what they do and how things work we drive heavy equipment we make sure the containers are on the right ship in the right order to the right port we run hoppers to unload grain on rail cars, we load long and short haul trains, we do logs put on cleats and jump onto logs floating, we sling them into bundles and do this in rain and snow, imagine you putting spikes on your feet jumping onto a bundle of logs when its 20 degrees hoping not to fall in oh we fall in the freezing water regularly or get our legs crushed or worse, we do steel heavy dirty and extra dangerous, we load luggage and stores on cruise ships this means 1900 passengers on and 1900 passengers off with 20 stevedores, passengers with two bags each means we throw 400 pieces of luggage each, try it harder than it sounds, not to mention all the food for the sailings, we drive precise and highly skilled equipment from cranes to stads to semi trucks if it has lifting or loading capabilities we drive it. our work force are trainer by seniority and equipment of choice. so remember when you talk or write stuff you should try to educate yourself before you yap by the time we put 20 years in to longshoring are back are wrecked our neck don't move our knees won't support us and our shoulder are torn and were broken we work hard get dirty and do amazing work with a proud and honorable work force. Our history and struggles are rich. Your article makes you look jealous, uneducated, and a poor researcher. Sad you felt a need to be the class bully.
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