Vinod's Blog
Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Wednesday, October 02, 2002 - 10:28 AM Permanent link for longshoreman

A friend sent me this article talking about the current longshoremen strike that's shut down container shipping along the US west coast.

ILWU members are among the best-paid blue-collar workers in the nation. PMA figures show longshoremen earned an average of $82,895 last year, while clerks earned an average of $118,844 and foremen, who are members of the union, earned an average of $157,352.

I'll admit that I was a little surprised when I saw the salary figures although I think I understand it a bit...  The work is VERY high precision, high speed, high pressure.   I remember seeing that a good longshoreman moves ~30 containers an hour from the depths of the cargo holds of a container ship to the doc all while perched 100ft above the container in a crane.

More importantly though, thanks to the *ferocious* increase in volume that stemmed from cargo containerization, the $$$ value that an individual longshoreman moves from ship to shore is probably in the $M's / hour.

It goes back to the old principle of "the closer you are to the $$$, the more $$$ you make"

On the flip side, however, the source of the ILWU's beef seems to be very neo-Luddite (I am by no means an expert on the issues here;  nor do I plan on investing too much time to become one...):

...Management is seeking to have data from outside sources, such as shipping lines and their customers, downloaded into PMA computers rather than having it re-entered manually by ILWU clerks. Management says that it will provide job guarantees for current ILWU members as well as improved benefits to win that greater use of technology. The union is demanding jurisdiction over other work and staffing level guarantees to allow the use of the technology, but PMA has rejected that offer as unworkable.

Just to fact check, MSNBC has a similar conclusion about the root cause of the strike:

...The five-month-long contract talks have deadlocked mainly on the issue of implementing new technology on the docks, which the union, one of the best paid and most powerful in the nation, says would cost it jobs. Port employers see new technology as the key to remaining competitive.

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