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From the NYT, on a labor dispute at a port in the state of Washington:

About 500 longshoremen stormed the new $200 million terminal in Longview before sunrise Thursday, carrying baseball bats, smashing windows, damaging rail cars and dumping tons of grain from the cars, police and company officials said.

That reminds me that one of the forgotten efficiencies bestowed by the containerization revolution after WWII in which sealed standardized steel boxes that could be carried by truck, rail, and ship became the norm. Containerization made it much harder for stevedores to steal some of the cargo. Theft had been a traditional perk of working on the docks. Wikipedia explains:

Improved cargo security is also an important benefit of containerization. The cargo is not visible to the casual viewer and thus is less likely to be stolen; the doors of the containers are usually sealed so that tampering is more evident. Some containers are fitted with electronic monitoring devices and can be remotely monitored for changes in air pressure, which happens when the doors are opened. This reduced the thefts that had long plagued the shipping industry.

By the way, as a commenter points out, the American engineer who invented the modern container, Keith W. Tantlinger, just died. Here’s his NYT obituary, which does a good job of explaining both the importance of his particular innovations, and how precisely they made an old idea idea a giant success.

Until the mid-1950s, however, seaborne cargo transport had changed little since the day man first lashed together a raft, stocked it with trade goods and set out for distant shores. For centuries, on waterfronts worldwide, goods as diverse as flour, coffee, whiskey and mail were literally manhandled — loaded by longshoremen onto ships in sacks and crates and barrels and, at the other end, loaded off again. 

The method was expensive and took time. In 1954, Mr. Levinson’s book reports, the cargo ship Warrior left Brooklyn for Germany carrying 194,582 separate items. These had arrived at the Brooklyn docks in 1,156 separate shipments. 

Containerization unified the process, letting a single shipper move merchandise across land and sea. In 1958, The New York Times described the new technology this way: 

“A trailer is loaded, for example, in Springfield, Mo. It travels by road to New York or San Francisco, sealed, virtually damage-proof and theft-proof. By ship it goes to France or to Japan, eliminating warehousing, stacking and sorting. Each ship takes on her cargo with a few hundred lifts, compared to 5,000 individual lifts by the old method.”

Also, now that I’m on the topic of longshoremen, one of the odder economic facts is that America’s busiest port is Los Angeles / Long Beach, despite LA being a high cost urban area, traffic for trucks being bad, and the port being notoriously unionized and corrupt (e.g., the scene in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs where the head gangsters get the vicious ex-con Mr. Blond a job at the port that he doesn’t have to show up for as a reward for taking the rap and not ratting them out). And LA / Long Beach isn’t even a real harbor — it’s just created by breakwaters. I guess the other potential dominant ports are even worse. San Francisco used to be the dominant West Coast port due to its superb natural location, but I guess Harry Bridges, the San Francisco-based Communist boss of the ILWU, permanently wrecked San Francisco Bay.

But even with the extra costs imposed by the LA / LB port, the cost of intercontinental shipping is a minor aspect of the cost of imported goods today. Tantlinger’s invention broke down the natural tariff barriers of oceans that protected American manufacturers. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Union 
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Something worth thinking about is the valuable role the firefighter’s union in New Haven played in keeping the politicians from getting their hands all over the fire department. It was the union that had negotiated the compromise by which 60% of the weight would be given to a written test (i.e., objective and blind-graded), while the city got only 40% of the weight given to a subjective oral test, where minorities made up almost 2/3rds of the judges.

In general, in cities that have tipped toward minority political dominance, where conmen like Rev. Kimber are trying to get their hands on control of the jobs, unions sometimes provide a bulwark against race discrimination.

This provides a new/old perspective on the much-denounced subject of teachers’ unions. It’s widely believed that if only we got rid of teachers unions, then we’d have superstar teachers in every inner city classroom. Yet, history suggests that we might wind up with worse teachers because rising politicians would try to fire the old white teachers and give their jobs to co-ethnics.

That’s exactly what happened in the late 1960s in the black Ocean Hill neighborhood in New York City, when the NY school board temporarily decentralized. Black politicians immediately fired huge numbers of white teachers (mostly Jewish) and hired blacks. Albert Shanker, the union boss of the United Federation of Teachers, went on the warpath. A huge brouhaha ensued and Shanker eventually mostly won and got the white teachers re-installed. In “Sleeper” (1973), Woody Allen is told by the people of the future that his age had been obliterated when “a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.”

That teachers unions and their seniority rules keep white teachers in jobs in minority-run cities is one of those phenomenon that nobody talks about but is staring you right in the face.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Ricci, Union 
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Teachers unions are highly controversial and always in the news, yet you almost never hear about the existence in many districts of of unions for principals and downtown administrators. A lazy teacher is a lot smaller of a problem than a lazy principal, yet you never hear about how principals unions protect bad principals. I guess not many people can believe there are such things as principals and administrators unions.

For example, I finally found out tonight the name of the principals union in Los Angeles: The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which defines itself like this:

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) represents the Middle Managers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

AALA is organized into four departments: Adult School Administrators, Elementary School Administrators, Secondary School Administrators and Supervisory Administrators…

AALA’s primary role is to ensure that members have the protection of Due Process, as contained in the collective bargaining agreement between AALA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). AALA provides its members with representation in resolving grievances, counseling in the area of salaries, health benefits, retirement and professional concerns.

If you are the principle of, say, Garfield High School in East LA (where celebrated math teacher Jaime Escalante of the “Stand and Deliver” fame creamed the top few percent off the 4,372 students), you have over 230 teachers working for you, plus some large number of non-teaching staffers. That’s being Management with a capital M. And, yet, these principals have their own union to keep them from being held accountable.

What’s next? A union for Trident nuclear submarine captains? “Sure, Commander Frobisher may have wiped out Edmonton with an unauthorized ICBM salvo, but he has 24 years seniority, so this union is not going to let him get fired over one little screw-up!”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Education, Union 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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