Thursday, October 10, 2002

Previously I questioned the accuracy of the annual pay of dockworkers, because it is way out of step with prevailing market wages. I still don't have perfect information to report, but here's an update on dockworkers wages.

A CNSNews article reports:

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping companies, insists the average longshoreman currently earns nearly $107,000 a year and full-time marine clerks earn an average of more than $128,000. Furthermore, the PMA says its latest contract offer calls for longshoremen to eventually earn $114,500 and marine clerks $137,500.

However, one longshoreman, who did not want to be identified, told he would have to work two years in order to make $125,000. The ILWU said a vast majority of longshoremen fall into that category.

"The basic wage is $27.68 an hour. Now you multiply that by 2,000 hours, which is what is considered full-time work and you come out to like $55,000," said Steve Stallone, ILWU spokesman in an interview with

Here's a report I lifted from a public message board:

A little background is in order concerning Longshoremen. This is a closed group whose members vote on every new applicant. Over 90% of new mwmbers are current members family or relatives. It is nepotism at work. The only members that are not related are ones who are friends with current members previously before applying and they recieve recommendations from their friends in the brotherhood. New members are never recruited outside of this nepotism situation. You cannot join the union without recommendation. This closes the employment possibilities to only a few chosen individuals. This is why I don't like unions at the docks or anywhere else that the Union has this level of control over employers. It is an unfair system. Sort of a twisted affirmative action program. By the way my friend the longshoreman is third generation in his career. His father and grandfather were longshoremen as well. A apprentice longshoreman starts out at $27.00 an hour and is guaranteed at least 80 hours a month to start until he becomes a journeyman. Journeyman or book longshoremen requires 5 years as an apprentice. Journeyman pay starts at $34.00 an hour with 160 hours minimum guaranteed per month. My friend is a Master level Longshoreman and he says that he pulls down in excess of $120,000 per year not including overtime and benefits. All training is provided by the employer as well as full paid health for the member and immediate family. But as someone pointed out it is a dangerous hard job that requires you to be physicially fit. You won't find any fat longshoremen unless they are full time union officials.

The dockworkers' union had some particularly nasty things to say of President Bush for invoking the Taft-Hartley Act. Here's a press release from the ILWU union that calls Taft-Hartley "anti-union employer-government collusion." This press release is nice compared to the statement an ILWU union representative read for the television cameras yesterday. I saw the statement on the local Los Angeles news, but could not find it anywhere online. If you want the perfect example of collusion, look no further than a union that conspires to slow productivity among workers already being paid approximately double the market rate of labor.

Julian Sanchez has an interesting point about this labor disagreement.

What I noticed was how the slowdown apparently works: the union just encourages its workers to follow all regulations strictly. In other words, when the labor laws are actually followed as written, an industry is crippled so severely that the president considered it a serious threat to the economy (and, somewhat obscurely "national security"). Translation: only pervasive lawbreaking prevents the economy from being crushed under regulatory burdens. When people actually follow the law, the president has to intervene to get them back to breaking it. Onionesque.

Brink Lindsey also notes the critical point that should be learned from the West Coast port closings: imports are critical to the American economy. Without imports, America has a shortage of necessary goods, and manufacturing plants shut down. If only politicians would remember this lesson in the future.