Nearly 2,000 Unite union members voted to strike at the end of July by a 92 percent majority on an 81 percent turnout, rejecting a below-inflation pay offer of just 5 percent. At the time of the ballot result the RPI measure of inflation was at 11.8 percent. It is now 12.1 percent and predicted to rise to over 17 percent this year. Pay has been held down for years with dockers receiving another below-inflation deal, 1.4 percent, in 2021. Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company is owned by Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, one of the largest foreign investors in Britain. It is one of the world’s foremost container terminal operators and a global leader in port services, holding interests in 52 ports in 26 countries. It’s operation at Felixstowe reported £61 million in pre-tax profits in 2020, lavishing millions in dividends payments on its shareholders.
Growing up in San Pedro Bay near Los Angeles, California, Sal DiCostanzo, an executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 13 and a dock worker for over 20 years, has seen jobs in numerous industries at the ports disappear, many of which were exported. “The last remaining jobs that are here that are good paying union jobs with benefits are longshore and other related supply chain jobs,” said DiCostanzo. “Automating these jobs would be taking away the only jobs left for this community.” DiCostanzo also pushed back on proponents of automation using clean technology as an incentive to do so, saying manual equipment that is electric can be introduced as well, and that environmental justice can’t be achieved at the expense of economic justice.
Two weeks ago, thousands of dockworkers in the ports of northern Germany went on strike for the third time in just a few weeks. The 48-hour strike for wages that would cover the real inflation being felt by these workers was the longest work stoppage in the ports in more than 40 years — reason enough for the bosses in the port, and beyond, to tremble with fear for their profits and attack the right to strike. Some 17 injunctions have been sought in labor courts to stop the strike. Rainer Dulger, president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), went so far as to call for declaring a “national emergency” to make it easier to break strikes in the future. Even though the leadership of the ver.di union1 denounced these attacks, it ultimately accepted an out-of-court settlement in Hamburg that ruled out further strikes until August 26.
Oakland, California - On April 29, thousands of teachers, students and parents from Schools and Labor Against Privatization (SLAP) rallied at Oscar Grant Plaza next to City Hall in Oakland, California, then marched to the Port of Oakland where they held a picket line that shut the port down. The innovative joint labor action was an historic day in the campaign led by SLAP, union teachers of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, against racist gentrification in Oakland. Local 10 honored the picket line with a stop-work action in solidarity with the teachers and community to fight the privatization and destruction of the port and Oakland’s public school system engineered by billionaire John Fisher.
If you ordered a teddy bear or a designer picture frame as a holiday gift, you know that it likely took a lot longer to get here than in past years. There have been problems getting things from point A to point B since the pandemic started. At one point in October, 77 percent of the world’s ports were experiencing long delays. More than most Americans, Longshore Union (ILWU) members grasp what supply chain problems are and how they come about. Many come from multigenerational families of port workers who understand both their militant union’s storied history and its role in the global economy today. ILWU members handle the containers that go into and out of the United States through nine West Coast ports.
I have a simple question for every ‘expert’ who thinks they understand the root causes of the shipping crisis: Why is there only one crane for every 50–100 trucks at every port in America? No ‘expert’ will answer this question. I’m a Class A truck driver with experience in nearly every aspect of freight. My experience in the trucking industry of 20 years tells me that nothing is going to change in the shipping industry. Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that. Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers.
Baltimore, MD - At a CNN town hall event Thursday evening, President Joe Biden revealed that he is considering using National Guard troops to ease the bottleneck at Southern California ports. In response to questioning from moderator Anderson Cooper, Biden said the plans potentially include having soldiers drive trucks from the ports to warehouses and distribution centers. This would mean the militarization of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle 40 percent of US imports. It would be a direct state attack on longshoremen, truck drivers and warehouse workers, with soldiers serving essentially as scabs operating in behalf of the private owners of the ports, trucking firms, shipping companies and major retailers such as Walmart. It could also directly impact rail workers.