Another Fiscal Cliff

From Fox News:

[A] potential strike by thousands of dock workers from Boston to Houston threatens to shock the economy as early as this weekend.  …it could cost billions, citing estimates that a 10-day port lockout in 2002 cost $1 billion a day—and caused a major backlog in shipments.

[The present] port strike would affect more than the East and Gulf coasts, where all these ports are located.  It could choke supply chains across the country.  Groups ranging from the automobile industry to the National Retail Federation to the US Chamber of Commerce to the Cheese Importers Association of America are warning of dire consequences.

The primary beef?  Management wants to cap the current container fee royalties, rather than letting them continue to rise according to International Longshoremen’s Association schedules.

It’s important to note that those royalty fees are little more than featherbedding on the docks.  As The United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd (USMX), notes,

[C]ontainer royalties were established in 1960 as a way to protect members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO (ILA) in New York from job losses created by containerization and its introduction of automated cargo.

Because shippers are job welfare programs for the ILA, after all.  Keep those buggy whip workers employed, no matter the costs to Americans.  Never mind that there aren’t any buggy whip workers anymore, anyway.

[O]nly 136 of the 3,281 ILA workers at the Port of New York and New Jersey today were working at the port in 1968….

The Port of New York and New Jersey was the original and only port at which the ILA was active during the transition to container shipping.  The rest of the ports up and down the east and Gulf coasts through Florida began life with containerized cargo.

Moreover, containerization has been beneficial to labor.  ILA workers at ports like Savannah, Charleston, and the rest saw their job opportunities grow specifically because of containerization.

On top of this, the royalty payments don’t all make it into the pockets of the ones being featherbedded.  Ten per cent—which ran to $21 million in 2011—were raked off the top by the workers’ union management, as the union’s vig.

In the end, the union doesn’t care about the economic damage done by the strike they’re threatening, nor do they care that their strike has so little economic purpose.  This isn’t even about protecting a featherbedding perk—USMX is willing to keep paying the “royalty;” they just want an upper bound on a payment that has nothing to do with the work being done.

No, this is about union power and the unions’ decision to use extortionate-type actions to maintain/increase it.  It’s a legal version of the violence they threatened in Wisconsin and Michigan, and of the dishonesty shown by the Wisconsin Teachers’ Union a year ago.

Update: Michelle Malkin provides one:

A deal has been struck that for now averts a strike by 14,500 longshoremen at major ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, including PortMiami and Port Everglades.

A federal mediator announced Friday that an expired contract for workers in the International Association of Longshoremen would be extended for another 30 days while negotiations continue.

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