At issue is management's demand to cap payments that are made to longshoremen based on the volume of containers they load and unload, estimated at about $15,000 a year per employee. That's in addition to the average ILA salary of $100,000 in wages, and more than $20,000 in benefits.
That would be the bribes agreed to back in the 1960s to get the longshoremen's union to agree to progress (i.e., use machines to unload cargo, rather than men). Progress that has been used in every other industry to make ordinary people better off through efficiency improving technology.
Which is something of a problem for the newly re-elected President who claims to worry about the little guys;
A walkout would come on the heels of an eight-day strike that ended last week at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
"There hasn't been an East Coast strike since '77, but it's got people very worried," said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Federation of Retailers.
If there is a strike, President Obama can use his powers under the Taft Hartley Act to order the dock workers back to work. He refused to do that during the the LA/Long Beach strike, but those ports account for a smaller portion - 35% - of U.S. container shipping.
Ed Sands, a logistics analyst at consultant Procurian, said he believes that Obama will have no choice but to use Taft-Hartley, even if it risks angering his supporters in labor.
"It'd be very hard for him to defend workers making the sums that they make when they are shutting down a good chunk of the economy," he said.We're betting he can rise to the occasion, and rationalize his support for organized labor...at the expense of the American consumer.