The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is famous for striking to prevent docks from using technologies that reduce the need for union labor. The last time the ILWU went on strike it cost the economy $2 billion a day. But for the union’s efforts, it negotiated an average wage-and-benefit package of $150,000, with American consumers footing the inflated wage bill through higher costs. Not bad for jobs that do not require a high school degree. Good luck trying to get hired as a Longshoreman without union connections, though.
Now the Longshoremen are striking for a different cause: defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ILWU will shut down U.S. ports across the West Coast on May 1 to protest America’s “occupation for imperial domination” of those countries.
Heritage analyst James Sherk says the Longshoremen’s May Day strike is a sad commentary on the state of the contemporary labor movement.
In the past, organized labor has strongly opposed tyranny around the world. Walter Reuther purged the United Auto Workers of Communist sympathizers and supported American efforts in the Cold War. More recently American unions gave important support to the Solidarity movement in Poland. Today the Longshoremen are celebrating the International Worker’s Day by demanding that the U.S. immediately abandon the workers of Afghanistan to the Taliban, and allow Iraq to fall under the influence of Ayatollah Khamenei.
Of course, this limited strike will not alter U.S. foreign policy. But the delays and logistical tie up it will create will cost an already weakening economy hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which will ultimately come out of workers pockets. The labor movement has found a curious method of expressing solidarity and promoting workers’ well being this May Day.