Longshoremen ignore a federal arbitrator’s order and shut down West Coast ports in order to protest the war in Iraq. A radical exercise….
The action comes despite a last-minute appeal by employers, backed by a labor arbitrator, to compel longshoremen to report for work.
“We are severely disappointed that the union leadership failed to keep its end of the bargain,” said Steve Getzug of the Pacific Maritime Association, an organization representing marine terminal operators. “The coast arbitrator – essentially the Supreme Court on the waterfront – has ordered the union to treat today as a normal work day, but the union appears to have done the opposite.”
The ILWU, which represents more than 40,000 dockworkers at 29 U.S. Ports, is currently negotiating for a new labor contract with the PMA. The current pact expires July 1.
Employers said today’s protest does little to bring the sides closer to an agreement.
“Shutting down the ports in defiance of the contract and the arbitrator’s order in no way benefits an already-fragile U.S. economy,” Getzug said. “We have a lot of serious issues to resolve at the bargaining table, and the nation cannot afford uncertainty about the reliability of the West Coast ports.”
Not only is the move a gesture of contempt to the law and the union contract, it also tells members of other unions — those whose work is disrupted — that they’re of no concern. So much for solidarity. And do all longshoremen oppose the war in Iraq?
The Pacific Maritime Association issued a news release on the strike, including these facts.
The West Coast ports are a huge economic engine, supporting eight million U.S. jobs and accounting for 11 percent of the U.S. GDP. ILWU members are among the highest-paid blue-collar workers in the nation; average full-time wages for fully registered workers are $136,000. A rich benefits package, including pension and health care, costs more than $50,000 per worker. Nearly 15,000 registered longshore workers are employed at West Coast ports – an increase of more than 4,000 since 2002.
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