West Coast ports get ready for “Occupation”
December 08, 2011 - LM Editorial
As West Coast ports from Anchorage to San Diego brace themselves for the planned onslaught of “occupy” forces on Monday, December 12, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) may be wondering what role organized labor will be taking in response.
Most recently, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has been stating that it will not cooperate with movement organizers to shut down operations at ocean cargo terminals.
In a memo sent to 15,000 longshore members, ILWU leaders emphasized the union’s internal democratic process and stated its rejection of third-party calls for job actions that had not been sanctioned by its officers or voted on by member representatives.
However, Union president Robert McEllrath, added that the ILWU “shares the Occupy Wall Street movement’s concerns about corporate abuses and the future of the middle class….”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, meanwhile, continues to participate in “Occupy” events. As recently as December 7, Teamster President James Hoffa told members that he “supports and encourages” them:
“We stand in solidarity with Americans who want better lives for themselves and for future generations,” he added.
One of the primary goals of “Occupy” actions on Monday will be to tie up drayage traffic and encourage independent owners-operators to demand union representation. The problem here, however, seems to be that the drivers prefer the free market system now in place. Indeed, there is speculation that there may be a direct confrontation between drivers and protestors next week.
Finally, the ports themselves are hoping that the BCOs will join them in resisting this action. Many are conducting aggressive public outreach campaigns, and engaging a media blitz to counter arguments posed by “Occupy.”
American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) president and CEO, Kurt Nagle, said protests would significantly impact all Americans, including those who must work to support themselves and their families, small businesses - many of which export U.S.- made goods and that are struggling to compete in the global marketplace, and all levels of government, which depend on tax revenues generated by seaport activity.
“West Coast seaports generate more than $700 million a day in economic activity and a day-long shutdown could impact up to 260,000 person hours of employment and more than $9 million in wages,” he said. “Additionally, more than $3 million in local, state and federal tax revenues generated by port activities that are used to pay school teachers, first responders and other vital public services could be significantly affected.”
The AAPA is working closely with its U.S. West Coast member seaports to help communicate the value that each of these ports provides its community, their combined impact on the regional and national economy, and the livelihoods of working Americans nationwide.
Organized labor, though, seems to be keeping its distance from port authorities while waiting for all of this to shake out.
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