Taking the long view on ILWU thuggery

By Patrick Burnson · September 9, 2011

Organized labor is showing bad faith with its blatant disregard for law and property at the The Port of Long View this week.

In direct defiance of a court order, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been wreaking havoc at the port by wrecking trains and vandalizing offices. There have even been reports of longshoremen holding port security officers as hostages.

With wildcat strikes threatening neighboring ports of Tacoma and Seattle, shippers may already be reconfiguring their supply chains in anticipation of prolonged union actions spreading down the West Coast.

At issue here is the ILWU’s objection to another union engaged by the owner of a new grain terminal in Longview — EGT Development. For very sound business reasons, the ILWU was bypassed in favor of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701 in Gladstone, Oregon.

How’s this for “worker” solidarity?

A similar case can be made when examining the Teamsters Union’s resistance at other West Coast ocean cargo gateways to sharing port drayage with independent owner-operators. No violence has ensued (yet) over that particular issue, but it points to a longer view shippers may be taking on ocean carriage options.

As the expansion of the Panama Canal moves on schedule toward its 2014 deadline, major multinational manufacturers are already rethinking their shipping and sourcing strategies. For a variety of reasons, West Coast ports are not nearly as attractive as they once were.

This latest episode of union thuggery may well be viewed by labor historians as a defining moment for all U.S. seaports. As engines of economic growth and prosperity, they must function efficiently with a skilled and dedicated workforce. Is the ILWU the only union capable of providing such professionals? The answer is clearly, no.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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