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On The Waterfront

It wasn’t Boston and it wasn’t tea; this time it was west coast ports and grain. From the WSJ:

Hundreds of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members stormed a newly built grain terminal as a labor dispute led to violence Thursday and the closing of the West Coast ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Longview police said the predawn intruders spilled grain from rail cars that entered the terminal late Wednesday, cut the brakes on some rail vehicles and tossed a security company’s SUV into a ditch…

The work stoppages in Seattle and Tacoma raised the stakes in what already has been a fierce legal battle over the Longview facility, operated by EGT LLC, a Portland, Ore., joint venture between grain giant Bunge Ltd., Japan’s Itochu International Inc. and South Korea’s STX Pan Ocean Co. The $200 million investment includes a 50- to 80-year lease expected to generate $10 million or more a year in property taxes and port fees.

An ILWU spokeswoman said the longshoremen “wildcatted”. Perhaps. In Via Meadia‘s opinion, if the ILWU can’t keep its members from violence, it does not deserve to be treated as their bargaining agent.

There is nothing noble or heroic about this thuggery.  Violence was a part of early labor struggles in this country and in many others.  In some unions, a climate of violence persists to this day — often though not always associated with mob infiltration.  With a somewhat depressing frequency, it is the most indefensible labor practices that union vigilantes use violence to protect.

The national interest requires efficient ports where cargoes can be safely and cheaply processed.  Labor unions like the ILWU are living in the past; change needs to come to the waterfront and it will — violence or no.

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  • Paul

    It is a delusion of left liberalism that historical Western labor unions have not depended upon coercive violence — whether their own or that of the state — for whatever successes they enjoyed. This is not surprising, as a union not employing violence would have to rely on the prolonged and unwavering choice of the vast majority of a particular population to inflict some period of material deprivation on its own families for the sake of collective solidarity in pursuit of particular limited benefits. Such long-term commitment and solidarity are rare among human beings outside the context of physical conflict (and coercive internal policing).

    Of course, their opponents historically have also resorted to both private and state violence in response, and sometimes this logical “response” has included preemption.

  • Peter

    Violence and thuggery is in Big Labor’s DNA.

    Indeed, if you look at the record, Mr. Mead, you’ll see that labor violence is the reason the U.S. Supreme Court declared the obviously unconstitutional Wagner Act as being constitutional.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Anti-Trust the Labor Gang Monopolies, break them up and force them to compete against each other for work. That’s the Free Enterprise way, that’s the source of Capitalism’s improving quality and service, it’s the feedback of competition that makes things better. Monopolies are just dead ends.

  • Corlyss

    The history of the labor movement worldwide is a tribute to its role in labor saving devices and technological advancements like word processing, robotic manufacturing, and containerized shipping. The violence and unreasonableness of union demands and behaviors have lead directly to the high cost of labor everywhere and that in turn led directly to automation that has gagged the miserable lot for the last 40 years. God Bless the Unions and their perpetual overreaching!!!! I trust they will keep it up until even SEIU is out of business, literally.

  • Nissen

    I can not speak for the historical practices of “western labor unions” (@ Paul), but I do know a lot about the history of the ILWU beginning with my father’s accounts.
    He was proud to finally get “on the board” and as a pensioner to support the only endowed chair in the U.S named for a labor leader, the Harry Bridges Chair in Labor Studies at the University of Washington. Harry has been dead for many years so maybe the current leadership, and for sure WRM, need some touchup work. Here’s a couple of places to start (a better understanding of the current dispute would be also in order.

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