Thousands of U.S. dockworkers are threatening to strike unless their contract is renegotiated before September 30, the date that their existing contract expires. The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) are bargaining for a new labor deal with only two weeks left until expiration.
The key issues up for debate include overtime rules and royalty payments to dockworkers based on weight. The USMX, which represents shippers, believes that the union members are taking advantage of loose overtime rules and driving up shipping costs while the ILA says that a small minority of highly paid workers are being singled out to unfairly characterize the entire union.
The negotiations came to a halt at the end of August due to firm stances on both sides, but will resume on September 17. If a decision is not reached by the end of the month, 36 major East Coast ports will close. More than 90 percent of global trade moves by ship, and the Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast and the third-largest in the nation, behind only Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA. In 2011, the NY-NJ port handled cargo valued at $208 billion according to the Port Authority of NY-NJ.
This looming strike presents a huge obstacle to retailers all over the country and, if not immediately addressed, will add significantly to the national economic crisis and unemployment rate. The issues currently under debate are in part a result of the policies that were put into place in the 1960s to protect workers from job losses due to automation.
To understand the possible consequences the nation will face if this contract is not negotiated, we can look to a dock strike of the 1960s. On December 23, 1962, East Coast dock workers went on strike and completely shutdown all Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. On the 24th day of the strike, JFK issued a statement that detailed the enormous consequences of the strike:
This shutdown is doing intolerable injury to the national welfare. Hundreds of ships are immobilized. Over 100,000 longshore and maritime workers are idle. Economic losses to the Nation are running at a rate of millions of dollars a day. Serious damage is being done the United States dollar balance. Vital foreign aid and relief shipments are blocked. The lifeline between Puerto Rico and the mainline has been cut; and commerce imperative to the economic wellbeing of the free world is disrupted.
Here’s to hoping that this terrifying statement will not once again, on September 30, be relevant to our country. Here’s an interesting video that shows the historic strike in the 1960s.
Read more: NY, NJ Dock Workers Threaten to Strike · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/city/2012/09/11/ny-nj-dock-workers-threaten-to-strike/#ixzz271GC5Gpr
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