As a candidate back in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama seemed to many people (actually, a majority of voters*) to be almost too good to be true: A man who was inspiring, a leader who could lead by consensus (yet still command control), and a politician who would demand accountability and hold his administration to higher standards than those in the past.
In sum, Candidate Obama portrayed himself to be all things to all people. However, over these past 18 months, one thing has become ever clearer: Since becoming President, the only people he seems to have any loyalty toward are left-wing special interest groups and one, in particular, has been placed higher than all others—union bosses.
As new revelations emerged this past week about Obama’s pal (and chief backer), former SEIU president Andy Stern and his plans to use social security funds to nationalize publicly held companies, as well as his seeming conflict of interest as a member of the Board of Directors at SIGA Technologies, another conflict is emerging on the West Coast that will pit President Obama’s loyalties against his stated goals of creating jobs.
Last week, BigGovernment.com carried our story about the current Longshoremen’s port strike in L.A. and Long Beach (California) that threatened the already-fragile economy. This isn’t a strike over wages or benefits, as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) strikers are being offered a wage increase (the strikers already average $96K per year), as well as a ten percent increase on their pensions. According to the union, the strike is over a fear of outsourcing. The companies, however, believe it is more about union featherbedding.
The term featherbedding refers to the union practice of either limiting output or requiring extra union workers than is necessary.
According to Stephen Berry, who is representing the shipping companies, union demands would“force the employers to hire temporary and permanent workers even when there is no work for them to perform.”
At the time of our post on BigGovernment.com, the strike had not yet caused injury to the economy. However, with California’s unemployment rate already at a staggering 12.4%, that’s starting to change as the strike drags on and expands.
Office workers expanded their strike at the nation’s busiest port complex Friday after negotiations collapsed with one of the globe’s largest shipping companies.
Strikers launched picket lines at the entrances of a China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) terminal in the Port of Long Beach early Friday, slowing truck traffic in and out of the terminal and briefly halting the unloading of two container ships.
In total, the eight-day strike has disrupted operations at four terminals used by some of the world’s biggest ocean carriers.
Now that the port strike is starting to affect warehouses in the Inland Empire, the ripple effect will likely begin to cause those companies to choose between keeping workers on salary when there is nothing coming in or going out, or they can lay them off.
Once layoffs begin to occur, the strike’s effects will be more widely felt in the immediate region. However, in addition, as distribution centers and retailers across the U.S. do not receive inbound freight, then they too will have to choose between keeping employees employed when there is no work or laying them off as well.
President Obama could end this catastrophe-in-the-making—if he wanted to.
Under the 1947 under the Taft-Hartley Act, President Obama could seek an injunction to order an end to the strike for an 80-day “cooling off” period during which time the parties would continue negotiations. President Bush did this in 2002 when the Longshoremen were locked out of California’s ports.
However, by invoking the Taft-Hartley injunction, Obama runs the very real risk of alienating not just the ILWU, but the entire union movement. At the same time, while the strike is still young and the effects not too widespread, if the President’s does not enjoin the ILWU soon, he will be demonstrating that he more concerned about alienating his union friends than he is about “creating or saving” jobs.
Will Obama’s refusal to intervene in the port strike kill what’s left of California?
With California’s Democrat-controlled climate already horrifically hostile toward business, a seemingly unimportant event like a port strike is more likely to have a pronounced impact in creating even higher unemployment for Californians (including those unionized Longshoremen) in the long run. Here’s why:
A little more than 220 miles south of Long Beach (and 150 miles south of the US-Mexico border) is the Mexican town of Punta Colonet. In five years’ time, Mexico is planning (in PDF) to have the largest port in the Western hemisphere (and the third largest in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore). The plans have been long in the making and, while put on hold in 2009 due to the economy, Punta Colonet creates a viable and attractive alternative to the union-controlled ports of California.
As a result, Mexico’s plans to build Punta Colonet into a mega-port will undoubtedly result in lost jobs among California’s union dock workers and the truckers who move freight throughout California and beyond (60% of the mega-port’s planned throughput will be done by rail). In addition, Arizona is already exploring the possibility of having goods shipped into Arizona and beyond directly from Punta Colonet, bypassing California entirely. The current port strike merely adds to the pressure of doing business in California (see video below at 1:30) and the longer President Obama allows it to drag on, more desire will be created to see Punta Colonet built faster.
From the UAW/auto bailouts to ObamaCare, SEIU cronyism, discriminating PLAs in the construction industry, the union-controlled NLRB, the proposed $165 union-pension bailout and, now, the further killing of California by not intervening in the port strike, President Obama has tethered his presidency to his union bosses and they will, ultimately, be the anchor that sinks him.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
For more news and views on today’s unions, go to LaborUnionReport.com.