Re: Guns to heads (was: Re: Transhumanist Declaration)

Michael Lorrey (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 19:56:05 -0400

Damien Broderick wrote:

> At 12:42 AM 4/11/98 -0400, Mike Lorrey replied:
> >Manual,
> >unskilled labor will always be the cheapest to be had. Unions and immigration
> >rules seek to artificially restrict the supply of manual labor, which is why
> >unions always support immigration restrictions.
> >
> >If your union there is anything like the Teamsters here, I can understand why
> >the owners are using security to keep former employees off their property.
> That
> >they have successfully ended the artificial labor supply restrictions they
> were
> >suffering under is actually good for the economy in general, no matter how
> much
> >short term difficulty the workers may face.
> <interesting arguments on the benefits of sacking people snipped>
> In the current Australian case, it isn't that simple. We're not talking
> about unskilled people being replaced by machines to do the hod-carrying.
> Stevedoring is already a fairly skilled business. For what it's worth,
> here are some comments from an article in The Australian, our major Murdoch
> newspaper (quoted without permission of the writer, Mike Steketee):
> `The Government has enforced the principle that union membership should not
> be a requirement for working on the wharves... a significant
> cost... security guards and savage dogs dragging employees from their
> workplaces in the middle of the night.
> `This was heavy-handed action, accompanied by a sneaky shuffle... of
> corporate assets to try to escape liability [of breach of Act] which
> prohibits the dismissal of employees because they are union members. Its
> success in terms of public acceptance relies on Australians being persuaded
> by the demonisation of the wharfies in which the Government has engaged.
> `In truth... they have accepted change, including a more than halving of
> their numbers as a result of reforms - achieved by negotiation...

Ah, now this is the interesting part. I'm not totally ignorant of the situation of
organised labor in the harbor/shipping industry, as 'one of my best freinds'
happens to have reached the level of Chief Engineer on container ships (working up
from the bottom), and has told me a bit about what seems to be really going on.

Most modern harbors have converted almost entirely to servicing container
transport ships, and use highly automated crane systems, with eleborate queueing
systems for handling the tractor trailer traffic as it flow through the offloading

While operating a crane, a forklift, or a tractor trailer may not be as unskilled
posistions as a ditch digger, the fact is that a reasonably well trained
individual can pretty much master the job requirements in 6 weeks of training.
(Forklift training actually takes one day, but I'll be generous).

Because modern harbors are so automated, you would think that they would need
extremely few employees, right? Wrong. Just as most of the US auto industry is
saddled with obsolete work rules, and has agreed to not replace more than x many
workers with robots each year, most longshoremans unions in city's where they are
strong and typically supported by the mob, tend to negotiate from rather strong
positions in terms of preserving jobs for people where they wind up really not
doing much at all.

This same situation is being contested in US port systems. The old unions are
fighting with the help of the mafia in preventing the loss of jobs due to
progress. Its about time sombody fought back. People need to realize that such
strong arm tactics on the part of unions only make things more expensive for the
rest of us.

That the number of longshoremen has only decreased by half, under negotiation,
indicates to me that they have been fighting to preserve a lot of positions that
are totally obsolescent.

As far as I can see, the shipping companies were within their rights in making a
last ditch effort to maintain competetive stature with competing companies and
harbors. I would guess that there are either in that same harbor, or in a nearby
harbor, a competing company that does not employ union workers, and was beating
the heck out of the ones that brought in the dogs and nightsticks to get rid of
the dead wood.

> `So what mortal sin have the wharfies committed to warrant their wholesale
> sacking? It boils down to an hourly container movement rate perhaps 25 per
> cent below world's best practice (bulk cargo rates are already at the
> international benchmark, though that did not stop Patrick employees in
> these areas getting the sack as well). This is an improvement worth
> having, but does it require such brutal action?'

Apparently so, if the obsolete union is preventing the companies from being
competetive. If they don't give up, then they could wind up with nobody having
jobs. It was bound to happen, and could have happened peacefully or violently.
Stubborn unions usually cause it to be the second case.

> Mike Lorrey might be correct that this is mercantilism rather than
> capitalism. I can't say, not being a theologian. But it sounds to me
> rather like guns against heads in one of the advanced non-communist nations
> of the First World. (Do note that I am not saying anything about the
> merits of stevedores as wonderful caring human beings, nor trying to deny
> their own record of thuggish intimidation, theft, industrial sabotage. etc.
> I am simply responding to the claim that capital operates differently from
> socialist state enforcement.)

Any organization with its back against the wall business wize is gonna push back,
or die.

   Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------ Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
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