by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Organized-labor headlines typically offer a zap of top-line shock — UPS is paying some drivers $134,000 a year? Philadelphia is paying a police detective $310,000 a year? — but those six-figure sums don’t capture the true cost.
As can be seen with the enormously costly backup at the port complex in San Pedro, Calif. — which handles about 40 percent of U.S. container-ship cargo — the issue is not so much high wages as highly rigid and inflexible labor practices.
The problem in San Pedro isn’t that the longshoremen are earning, on average, $171,000 a year ($194,000 for a clerk and $282,000 for a foreman) plus the usual generous benefits — the problem is that the ships are not being unloaded in a timely fashion.
Instead, the ships have been sitting at sea. Where there might normally be no more than one ship waiting at anchor for a spot to unload, there recently have been as many as 95.
The Biden administration has responded with an initiative that is perfectly Bidenesque: vague and fuzzy about the details, offering the appearance of action but very little of the real thing. The administration says it brokered a deal under which the twin California ports now operate around the clock. The 24/7 operation began “weeks ago,” according to White House flack Jen Psaki.
You will not be entirely surprised to find that this is not true.
Port authorities tell the Long Beach Post that there is no terminal at either facility currently operating 24/7. What has happened is that the port authority has launched a pilot program. …
… If there ever is an actual transition to 24/7 operations at the ports, it will take months or years to implement. And it will not solve the fundamental problem — instead, it almost certainly will only replace one rigid and inflexible labor arrangement with a different rigid and inflexible labor arrangement.