It is Premature to Talk About the Demise of Organized Labor

I do not believe that anyone would dispute the fact that the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of goods. Americans import every conceivable class of goods. The sheets that you crawl into each evening might have been fabricated in a Middle Eastern country. Your first cup of “Morning Joe” might be prepared with an Italian coffee maker. How many Americans walk out their homes with some article of clothing that has the label “made in China?”

Once in the U.S. imported goods and products are transported around primarily by truck. To a lesser extent these goods are shuttled about the country in containers that are placed on top of flatbed railroad cars. It never ceases to amaze me how an item can be made in a far off distant land and make its way to my desk top. The American economy would slowly grind to a halt if imports were not constantly entering the country. America’s many ports serve as gateways for goods that arrive here. Domestic businesses use the ports to ship their goods overseas.

Within the last few decades the world has witnessed phenomenal advances in technology. Consequently, new ways of doing business have developed to take advantage of the emerging technologies. Globalization has marched into being an everyday reality. Many of America’s port complexes have been fully modernized to meet today’s challenges. Yet a basic fact of international commerce has not change in centuries; almost all the goods entering the U.S. arrive by ship. Today’s cargo ships represent the best in cutting edge shipping technology and operation. A single large ship can transport more goods than anyone would have believed possible just a few years ago. The rate of shipping accidents and breakdowns on the high seas has been drastically reduced. Shipping goods by sea to the U.S. is safe and cost-effective.

Foreign cargo ships that dock at U.S. ports must have their goods off loaded in a systematic manner. The U.S. port complexes serve as nerve centers that receive, organize and then send the imported goods along the nation’s transportation arteries to their final destinations. Each of our 50 states relies on 13 to 15 ports to handle its imports and exports, which add up to over $ 5.5 billion  worth of goods moving in and out of U.S. ports every day.

If any one of the nation’s port systems were to shut done for even just day the effects would be felt across a broad economic spectrum. This is exactly what happened on November 28, 2012 at the LA port system except the shut down lasting longer than a day. About 70 clerical workers at the main port facility went out on strike. The workers felt that port management was not negotiating seriously and in good faith with the Union. Once the clerical workers set up their picket line other unionized workers at the LA port refused to cross the line. The port was almost shut down by organized labor flexing its muscles. By the third day of the strike boats had began to stack up in the harbor because there were no free berths. Others boats were docked but there was no workers to unload them. Union Pacific Corp. and other business stopped transporting goods to the port for export. No goods were coming in or out of the port facilities.

I was surprised to learn that the striking workers are among the highest paid clerical workers in the land. According to LA/Long Beach Harbor Employer Association the workers earned about $165,000 annually. The union disputed this fact and said that the clerical workers only make only $83,000.00 a year with the rest of their salary covering benefits. Based upon my research on the strike I believe that it is safe to assume that the workers make in excess of $100,000 a year. The clerical workers themselves admit that they are well paid and have good jobs. So what issue led to the workers striking?

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