Op-Ed: Unions fuel U.S. supply chain crisis

“Union workers always go the extra mile to right the ship and correct our problems.” – Joe Biden

There has been a massive backlog for months of cargo ships waiting to unload their goods at West Coast U.S. ports. This delay is part of the domino effect of problems rattling the cages of vital U.S. supply chains and causing shortages in consumer and wholesale goods. The major issue causing this delay is our ports don’t operate 24/7 despite that being the norm for ports around the globe.

The pandemic demonstrated how vulnerable to disruption U.S. ports are. Although the U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer, and imports over $2.5 trillion worth of goods a year, the U.S. ports are less efficient than most all international gateways. There is no law that forbids our ports from operating 24/7 like other world ports. It is the union contract “by-laws” that dictate when they work and how they can work.

California’s Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle the majority of ocean cargo in the United States, but are two of the least efficient in the world. According to a ranking report by IHS Markit and World Bank on the Container Port Performance Index, problems at U.S. ports will get worse.

“Foreign nations like China have America over an economic supply chain barrel.” – Marko Rubio

Since 2010, container traffic has increased 47% at West Coast ports. This has resulted in crippling logjams at America’s biggest ports, along with higher consumer prices and shortages. While efforts are underway to expand port capacity, there is stiff resistance from all unions in the supply chain.

The Journal of Commerce says “terminal productivity” is tied directly to longshore labor, which is the real problem creating havoc at our busiest ports. Unfortunately, in today’s woke society, few people dare to say a word about this. Liberal media refuses to report on it. And nobody is willing to step up and fix it. An anonymous industry executive recently told Market Watch, “The unions run our ports.”

According to the CPPI, Yokohama, Japan, has the top port and King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia and Qingdao in China are right behind. Algeciras, Spain, is ranked #10 and Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the top-ranked port in South Asia at 17th. Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, leads the Americas as 25th, with Canada’s Halifax port ranking #50; the only North American port to rank in the top 50 ports.

In a review of 351 container ports around the globe, Los Angeles ranked 328 and Long Beach came in even lower, at 333. They both finished even lower than Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam, Turkey’s Nemrut Bay and Kenya’s Mombasa in production, efficiency and port management.

California port executives are trying to coax operators, importers, truckers, railroads, dock workers and warehouse owners to adopt 24/7 operations like other global ports. Log jams have locked up dozens of ships offshore, which is delaying deliveries to stores and e-commerce fulfillment centers.

“Ports can be cemeteries for ships that love adventure, storms and waves!” – Mehmet Murat ildan

Although over half the states are “right to work” and only 12% of all workers in the U.S. belong to unions, the nation’s two busiest ports are on the left coast, in the most liberal and union-friendly state in America – California. And since the only thing that is keeping unions on life support in the U.S. is their affiliation with the Democratic Party, don’t expect this crisis to improve anytime soon.

President Joe Biden gave newsmen vague and fuzzy details offering the appearance that he is attempting to convince unions to cooperate with port managers. He says that he has brokered a deal with the nation’s two worst and most inefficient ports in California. He says they are now operating around the clock. White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently agreed, 24/7 operation began long ago.

Of course, we know that this is another progressive fairly tale as we watch Biden’s nose grow. Port authorities told the Long Beach Post there is no terminal at any facility operating 24/7. The only thing the port authority has done is launch a pilot program at one terminal (out of seven total) to operate 24 hours a day Monday through Thursday. No other terminal is working 24 hour shifts.

Nations have been moving cargo over water for centuries. Port efficiency is affected by their ability to handle cargo at the destination ports where it arrives or departs. Humans load and unload ships and control the flow of freight from the dock to distributors via raw labor from ships to warehouses. All elements of the shipping process are controlled by longshoremen and various on-site foremen.

But in the late 1990s, automation began to creep into the shipping industry, displacing jobs in the name of efficiency, as companies found ways to combine information management and automation to deliver reliable service at better rates. Ports around the world have mechanized operations, yet in many U.S. ports, especially in California, unions have been fighting off port automation for years.

In 2020, San Pedro’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after a $94 million judgment against it for illegal labor practices and corruption. It used “work stoppages, slowdowns, and safety gimmicks” to leverage control over other unions. Union corruption is nothing new. It will not end as long as the unions finance elections for the left.

According to Market Watch, longshoremen in San Pedro earn between $194,000 and $282,000 a year plus very generous benefits. Unlike the East Coast and non-union ports in the South and Gulf of Mexico, the West Coast stevedores have an iron-fisted lock on America’s most important ports.

“When you run a union like the Teamsters, you got to show them who the boss is.” – Jimmy Hoffa

Union port mismanagement is not the only problem crippling our supply chain. The core of the problem plaguing our disruption is a lack of affordable labor. Teamsters have priced themselves out of jobs for years. Postal workers, UPS, unionized shipping companies and even the federally subsidized rail transportation workers are in short supply due to cost-prohibitive union contracts.

Jimmy Hoffa said, “Unions can make or break you.” The Cornell Labor Action Tracker shows that there are over 200 strikes in the U.S. Unions across the country see this as an opportunity. Janitors at Denver’s airport went out Oct. 1. Nabisco workers are on strike and John Deere workers are striking too. Over 60,000 film and TV workers will go out next week. Labor law expert Whitney Traylor said, “The pandemic and shortages created a perfect storm for unions to go on strike.”

The distinction abraded in political debates is that there’s a difference between a labor problem and a labor union problem. Joe Biden created the labor shortage paying people not to work. And unions are compounding it trying to milk this supply chain crisis for personal gain at a time when America needs workers to go the extra mile and fix it. Until we get the unions out of politics and politics out of unions, we are fighting a losing battle.

“There are no public figures today that challenge the elite business and government and so champion the working class as our labor unions.” – Jimmy Hoffa

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