What's Up Dock?

Marc To Market's picture

Labor disputes at ports on both US coasts could disrupt trade in the new year and skew high frequency employment data.  In could produce shortages of some consumer goods.  The resulting higher prices could filter through into measured inflation.  


The proximate cause of the disputes differ, but at its heart is a push by the employers to boost competitiveness through forcing changes in labor practices.


In 15 ports from Massachusetts to Texas, including the New York and New Jersey, the employers' union association, the U.S. Marine Alliance, seeks to cap the "container royalty", which are payments made to workers based on the weight of container cargo.  The dock workers, represented by the International Longshoreman Association, are resisting.  The workers also insist on maintaining the eight-hour a day (of pay guarantee).  


The union represents 14,500 works at the 15 ports, the NY-NJ, accounting for 4,000.  Last year, NY-NY handled $208 bln worth of goods.  It is the second largest port in the country to household imports from China.  Overall, it handles 10% of imports from China, almost 70% of imports from Israel, and 37% of imports from Italy.  Forty percent of the imported autos come through the NY-NJ docks.  


Following the breakdown in negotiations, and with the December 30th deadline looming, both sides have agreed to mediation.  The situation in the four northwest ports does not look as promising.  The 3,000 dock workers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, rejected the contract proposals of the employers, which indicated it was their "last, best and final" offer.


The ports cover two-thirds of the US grain terminals in the Puget Sound and along the Columbia River and account for a quarter of all US grain exports and half of the wheat exports.   Reports suggest the employers have sought over 750 changes in the contracts, in some cases, upending 80 years of practice.  However, most of the issues come down to control of the workplace.  The shippers want to use few workers to (un)load ships, allow elevator workers to assist in the loading of ships, and greater management discretion on hiring and staffing issues.  


The shippers and owners of the grain terminals are represented by the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Union Association, seem particularly aggressive.  The union has not asked for authorization to strike.  It has not set a strike deadline.  It has not threatened a walk out.  Nevertheless, there are reports that the shippers are considering locking out the union employees and keeping the ports open with replacement workers.  A Delaware company, specializing in providing security and replacement workers during labor disputes (shades of the Pinkertons) has been hired.


A capital strike is when investors withdraw from the productive process and squeeze interest rates highers in hope of driving the debtor to change its behavior.  A labor strike is when employees withdraw from the productive process, disrupting the ability to complete the circulation of capital from investment to profits.


A lockout is not a strike. It when employers force employees out of the productive process until they capitulate to the employers' demands.  Through the employers' union, association, they have a monopoly on the supply of jobs for longshoremen.


By preparing to establish buffer zones to prevent the labor dispute from interfering with the port activity, the US Coast Guard, and by extension, the US government abandons the honest broker role to favor the employers.   It compliments the use of replacement workers and seeks to minimize the ability of the labor dispute to interrupt business.


The employers seek a type of pattern bargaining.  After a protracted struggle, the union had capitulated to new workplace rules at a new grain terminal in Washington in 2011.   The employers want all the dock workers to adhere to those new rules.  Deeper still, shippers are facing competition from rail.  For a number of different reasons, using rail roads to bring grains to the ports may be less expensive than barges.

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rsnoble's picture

Oh well, by the looks of the highways and other roads it wouldn't hurt to have a halt to the influx of plastic fucking garbarge from China for awhile anyhow.

Other thoughts, I don't care for unions anymore. However when everyone's finally making min wage they'll probably be wondering where we went wrong lol.

I like listening to all the stupidshits that think this will never touch them. Like some of the RN's.  Once cost cutting really starts kicking in do you think the hospital is going to take a cut? No, it will all be the $30hr nurses fault. You watch. No one is safe.  Best thing now is to get out of debt as much as you can and don't take anymore on because what's coming is unavoidable and there's nothing that can be done about it.  The FED is merely a sticky pile of shit on the side of the mountain holding the avalanche back that is accelerating every single day.  It's gona break and all of us at the bottom are going to be covered in it head to toe.

Translator's picture

Is it about time to start shooting union 'workers', knee grows, homos, and anyone with and Obama sticker on their car?




They have all declared war against the middle class and the working man.

TIMBO Anti-Castro's picture

Why are Americans so brainwashed.  There is very little reason for unions anymore.  I cannot think of one positive thing they bring to the workforce.  All of the things unions were started for exist in the workplace and are provideed by most employers now.  Almost any employees working for a decent sized company have access to employer sponsored healthcare, a 401k, and government sponsored protections or taxes that are paid by the employer in the form of OSHA and labor laws.  Unions simply work to extort what ever else is left in the business owner's pocket. 

Any machine or probably a monkey could ddo better work that all of the union morons I have met in my years of working at or near the ports.  Union jobs at ports largely do not need to exist as machines can do the work far better and cheaper.  Unions are still around because we live in a banana republic that allows them to buy politicians and thus buy proetection from the free market competition.  Unions are the biggest pussies on the planet.  Henry Ford createed the weekend and good worker conditions to attract a better workforce.  Union idiots ruined most everything from there.  Another idiotic contrubutor stikes again.  This is rubbish written by yet another person that does not understand markets. 

Blizzard_Esq's picture

Well I agree with out Unions are basically communist run organizations. However on another point americans aren't brainwashed, the union members just care about take home pay. Until they realize that they'll earn more without the union and the dues cost they'll keep them until the employer goes bust. 

Unions also protect incompetent workers, by requiring employers to have a certain number of employees (all of which have to pay dues to the Union). 



Stuck on Zero's picture

You should feel sorry for the longshoremen.  They only earn $100k - $200K for driving a forklift. 




Uber Vandal's picture

What always cracks me up, is somehow, our society has become a bucket of crabs.

What does that mean, one might ask.

That means if one were to put crabs in a bucket, and one tries to escape, the other crabs will pull it back down so it is at the same level as the others.

Fortunately, it is OK to run a company or country into the ground, and receive bonuses in the tens to hundreds of millions for failure, or receive millions for throwing a fucking ball around for assuredly, these elite people earned it, right?

Freddie's picture

WTF are you talking about?  These corrupt longshoreman on the West Coast avg about $180,000 a year.  It is extortion and a tax on the average consumer.  Typical union thug mafia Dem Party crap.

Uber Vandal's picture

WTF am I talking about?

I am talking about how too many of us are happy to rip down each other while our corporate overlords are laughing at us all.

I am pointing out how there are others who do far more damage to our economy, wield far more power, yet not one fucking person seems to question that.

That is WTF I am talking about.


sethstorm's picture

Then set an example and act against those who are locking the unions out.


ebworthen's picture

Now that the parasitic corporatocracy has offshored production and employment they are trying to choke income for those who unload all the crap manufactured overseas as it comes back in (mo-money, mo-money, mo-money for the oligarchs).

So when none of us have career employment and income in a 70% consumer economy will the kleptoligarchy begin manufacturing here again at $8.25 an hour and no benefits?

Will we see kids and senior citizens churning out can openers and plumbing fixtures to send to the new middle classes in Asia and South America?

foxmuldar's picture

Thanks for reminding me, I need a new can opener. I'd run over to Wallmart if it wasn't so frigging cold and wet outside tonight. 

baldski's picture

Skipjack, are you from Texas?

XitSam's picture

Container Royalty

The longshoremen and the unions get money that they did not earn to make up for the increased efficiency of containerization. In other words, your stuff costs more because of unions.  Like making car makers pay fees to the union to compensate the buggy whip makers.

NotApplicable's picture

Gotta love a world where everyone seeks to live at others' expense because they can't afford their own.

Yet supposedly mature adults of all stripes cannot observe the faulty logic at work here, other than to note who needs more.

boogerbently's picture

The unions have 2 choices.

They can take less, or get NOTHING (well, unemployment).

We'll see if they're smarter than Greece.

Absinthe Minded's picture

They could go to work for Hostess, oh, wait a minute...

NEOSERF's picture

Oh, and the Mississippi will dry up in a few short weeks which should put the nail in the coffin of the consumer recovery.

pine_marten's picture

During the farm crisis in the early 80's, Hormel broke it's employees union.  There was a virtual sea of scabs in Southern MN and Northern IA who were happy to work for $10 instead of $15 an hr.  Same thing happening now except it's global.

skipjack's picture

Oh, FFS -


"By preparing to establish buffer zones to prevent the labor dispute from interfering with the port activity, the US Coast Guard, and by extension, the US government abandons the honest broker role to favor the employers.   It compliments the use of replacement workers and seeks to minimize the ability of the labor dispute to interrupt business. "


Wah wah wah. Since the New Deal, workers have used the Feral Gubermint to enforce ridiculous work rules (Right to Work, closed shop enforcement, NLRB) and gross overpayment of wages (Davis-Bacon, anyone?) to unions.  Yes, it will suck for longshoremen to NOT make in excess of $100k a year, but there are an awful lot of people out of work who woud compete for those no-skill, manual labor jobs if they weren't closed shop jobs.


Fuck the unions.  They have stolen enough.  Wages and work rules should be between employer and employee without the government forcing the employer to pay for crass inefficiencies.


Now, how to get rid of government employee unions next....

Fuh Querada's picture

"...It compl-E-(not i)-ments the use of replacement workers...."

Sources ?

Marc To Market's picture

Fuh Querada, sources?  It is my analysis.  The fact that the US government through the Coast Guard will move to undermine labor's leverage, which lies in disrupting the work activity, favors the employers.  The employers apppear to be preparing a lock out and use of replacement workers.   The Coast Guard will not prevent replacement workers, while it weakens the organized workers.  Q.E.D.  

CheapBastard's picture

Can't we just 'offshore' this work like most other jobs? Call in Immelt, Barry's 'Job Czar.'



Winston of Oceania's picture

Automation is at the core of the issue, the new world order requires that ALL ports function at the same relative cost. The carbon based work unit MUST have it's costs enumerated for the accounting department showing not only the fuel and storage portion but also the maintenance costs as well. I think they are still called food shelter and health care but that will change soon enough... 

mrktwtch2's picture

fire them all how long does it take to learn thier jobs 1 week??..lots of people would be happy to do them..

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Dockworkers make lots of money!

Here's some stories...