• ITVI.USA
    15,462.460
    -34.260
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.752
    0.009
    0.3%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.670
    -0.440
    -2.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,437.200
    -29.190
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,462.460
    -34.260
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.752
    0.009
    0.3%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.670
    -0.440
    -2.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,437.200
    -29.190
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
American ShipperInfrastructureShippingTrade and ComplianceWarehouse

Ides of March

   What this past year has taught the shipping industry is just how powerful unionized dock labor on both coasts has become in the United States and how much of the country’s economy it holds in a tight grip.
  
These unions — namely the International Longshoremen’s Association on the East and Gulf coasts and the West Coast’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union – have not only met their goal of protecting the well-being of dock workers, they have surpassed it with excellent salaries, health care plans and other benefits that far exceed their brethren in comparable, non-unionized environments, such as warehouses, inland depots and freight transportation offices.
  
One can’t fault these unions for fighting hard with terminal management to keep their hold on what they already have, or seek more benefits. It’s human nature. As it’s been put to me on a number of occasions, it’s easier for people to step up than it is to step down when it comes to earning a living.
  
In the tentative master contract reached between the ILA and employer representative U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), dockworkers would receive a $3 increase over three years – a $1 increase on Oct. 1, 2014; another $1 increase on Oct. 1, 2016 and lastly a $1 increase on Oct. 1, 2017. The starting salary for new members remains $20 per hour. A wage progression formula that ramps up the pay of workers that make less than the highest straight-time basic wage rate will see their salaries boosted to the same level as the highest paid workers over a six-year, rather than a nine-year period. Keep in mind that a number of senior ILA members draw annual wages well into the six-figure range.
  
While this tentative master contract appears to be mostly a win for labor, which gave up little ground to employer demands to lower labor costs and reduce less efficient headcount, and resisted increased use of waterfront productivity-enhancing technology, it must still be approved by the individual ILA locals to take effect. And it doesn’t take much for rank-and-file members of the union to reject what are obviously difficult terms to negotiate. This was seen in mid-February among the ILWU’s Local 63, Office Clerical Unit members, who rejected a long overdue tentative contract. Fortunately, the OCU approved the contracts with its employers on Feb. 20. However, it’s still easy to recall how this ILWU local flexed its collective muscle for eight days in late November and early December by shutting down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s No. 1 and 2 container ports, respectively. The ILWU’s master contract with the Pacific Maritime Association expires at the end of June 2014.
  
With the national economy crawling back from a deep recession, it would be devastating for the ILA to close U.S. ports from Maine to Texas, something it hasn’t done since 1977. Even a brief closure — let’s say a week — would quickly cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to countless businesses that depend on these ports to move their goods in and out of the country.
  
For now, as we approach press time, there’s a sense of optimism that the ILA’s membership will embrace the proposed master contract. The union’s Wage Scale Committee, a group of about 200 delegates, will meet in Tampa, Fla., on March 12-14 to determine whether or not to recommend the new master contract to the overall union membership for approval. Thus American shippers will know the fate of this master contract by the Ides of March.
  

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.

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