Longshoremen, Wages, and Resisting Technology

tags: logistics

Here’s an interesting article about how longshoremen at West Coast ports have prevented technological improvements from threatening their jobs – it’s simply the power of the union, it seems.

In the 1930s, West Coast port union leaders succeeded in negotiating a single contract that linked ports from the Pacific Northwest to San Diego […] which prevents shipping companies from pitting workers at neighboring ports against one another.

That’s key, Any cargo coming into the West Coast of the United States goes through the same unionized group of workers.

In 1960, the ILWU cut a deal that paved the way for a revolution in shipping. For centuries, longshoremen had used highly labor-intensive methods when loading and unloading ships – nets, metal hooks and pallets. The union offered to embrace use of containers in exchange for higher pay and benefits, along with richer pensions and buyouts for displaced workers.

The average longshoreman at the Port of Los Angeles makes over $100,000 a year with free healthcare, This is in stark contrast to the port of the future, which is so automated as to barely need humans at all.

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