Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Some quotes and rants about the dock lockouts and Bush's using Taft-Hartley to end it:

Business groups blitzed the White House late last week with dire scenarios about the consequences for jobs and profits if port closure went past 10 days. "This is about more than labor unions and port operators," said Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation, which represents about 1.4 million retail stores. "This is about whether American children will find presents under the tree on Christmas morning." -- from the Washington Post.
Heaven forbid that kids find fewer crappy commercial toys made in sweatshops in China and Vietnam, and sold at huge markups by Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart by minimum-wage clerks, causing Mommy and Daddy to work extra hours at their low-wage jobs (their high-wage jobs having gone to China and Vietnam to support "free trade") to pay the Visa bill, under the tree. They might have to settle for something of quality made by Americans paid decent wages, or maybe something used purchased at a thrift store which would not require using any new resources, would benefit the poor, and would cost Mommy and Daddy much less than the new crap at Wal-Mart. Mullin's argument clearly demonstrates the total insanity at the root of the American economy: Must waste, must exploit, must shop, must consume.

Ford imports 360 different parts through West Coast ports, while Dell Computer said it had only 10 days' worth of some computer parts left. One California military contractor said a custom piece of Japanese tooling that it needed to build tactical Tomahawk missiles was trapped on a ship off the California coast. -- from the New York Times.
Why is it that an interruption in importing car parts is seen as a threat to closing US manufacturing plants rather than an opportunity to re-open US part plants? Not that I am going to shed a tear if the Expedition plant is idled for a few decades. And Tomahawk missles? I think we are getting close to the heart of the reason for Bush's intervention. No missiles, no war. No war, a return to sanity. Return to sanity, no Bush. Further confirmation:

Mr. Bush said he was worried about the movement of military supplies. The Pentagon often uses commercial shipping lines to send supplies and equipment overseas, and those lines would undoubtedly fill that role from the busy West Coast ports if fighting erupted in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. -- also from the NY Times.

I'm not sure which side is more to blame in the dock dispute. From the stories, the dockworkers seem to be fairly well-paid, but management is certainly trying to change that. As a labor issue, helping agricultural workers, fast food workers and retail employees to unionize tugs at my heartstrings more than the dock dispute. But the union movement undoubtedly improved wages, hours and conditions for almost all American workers, even those who were never in a union. "Free trade" has exercised an outright assault on unions in the past twenty years, and Bush has now taken out the government's bluntest hammer (Taft-Hartley) to try to pound one of the few remaining strong unions into submission. Plus, while I struggle to maintain some objectivity, I find that I can't help feeling that whatever Bush is for, I'm against. Of course, you'd never guess that by reading the rest of my rants! :-)