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Ports up and down the East Coast could be shut down beginning Sunday if the region's dockworkers go on strike. A strike looks likely, barring major breakthroughs in contract negotiations that broke off on December 18, but may resume at the behest of a federal mediator. The economic impact would be immense, as the flow of goods into and out of many of the nation's largest ports halted; as a result, business groups are pushing President Barack Obama to get involved in preventing or ending a strike. Steven Greenhouse reports that the key issue over which negotiations broke down is that:
The United States Maritime Alliance, an association of shipping companies and terminal owners, is demanding concessions on “container royalty payments,” which the companies share with union members for each ton of cargo handled. The companies want to freeze those payments for current longshoremen and eliminate them for future hires.

The maritime alliance, known as USMX, says it paid $211 million in container royalties to the longshoremen last year, averaging $15,500 per eligible worker. James A. Capo, the alliance’s chairman, said that came to $10 an hour, on top of what he said were already generous wages.

And everybody knows that skilled workers shouldn't get "generous" wages matching their skill levels and get bonuses reflecting their productivity levels, amiright? That kind of pay is reserved for bankers and executives! Except, wait, those guys get bonuses even when they're not productive, so it's not the same.

It's true that there are a lot of skilled workers out there who don't make the $75,000 plus benefits and royalties that these workers make. But this is another of those moments when, if you stand against the notion that only bankers and executives and a few other privileged workers deserve to make upper-middle-class money, if you stand for the notion that skilled work deserves reward, then you need to be looking at this negotiation and asking not "why are these workers making so much" but "why aren't other skilled workers doing necessary work making anywhere near this much?"

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 07:23 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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