Somewhere, fictional union local president Frank Sobotka of the port of Baltimore is very pleased. The International Longshoremen’s Association had threatened to go on an East Coast strike beginning this Sunday, preventing most nonperishable cargo sent across the Atlantic from reaching its destination and causing an economic containertastrophe.
At issue are cargo royalty payments. Longshoremen effectively get a cut from every container of cargo they process. How much money are we talking about here? The New York Times reports that according to the United States Maritime Alliance, a group representing the companies importing goods at the ports, royalty payments of $4.85 per ton totaled $211 million in 2011 or about $10 per hour extra over union members’ regular pay of $32 per hour.
Companies want to freeze these payments at the current rate for current workers, and eliminate them entirely for future hires. The two sides, commerce and labor, disagree on exactly how much longshoremen really earn on average. The USMA claims that longshoremen can average $124,000 a year, while the union claims it’s closer to a more modest $75,000 in wages and royalties.
A mediator helped the two sides reach an agreement that will hold off a strike for another 30 days.
Statement by FMCS Director George H. Cohen on the East Coast Ports Labor Negotiations [FMCS]
Port Strike Averted After Partial Deal With Labor Union [NY Times]