In an unusual move, The NLRB took the rare step Thursday of obtaining an injunction against the longshoremen’s union in Washington after members stormed a port facility damaging property, dumping grain, and holding guards hostage.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is usually on the side of labor in employer organizing disputes. However, after members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) stormed the new grain terminal at the Port of Longview in Washington, overwhelming guards and damaging facilities, the NLRB was forced to seek an injunction from U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, the same judge who had issued a restraining order against the union last week.
The history of labor relations in America is rife with stories of violence committed by both labor and management. These stories are usually portrayed as oppressed union workers having to defend themselves against unscrupulous managers who hire detectives to employ violent tactics in strikebreaking attempts. However tempting that narrative, one must be mindful that unions have engaged in violence to make their point over the years. The threat of violence is always present in the undercurrent of labor negotiations and surfaces all too often.
Having largely eradicated the unsafe and deplorable conditions that led to their original formation during the Industrial Revolution, unions have focused their attention on obtaining ever more lavish pay and benefits packages to the point of pricing themselves out of the American labor market. To address this situation and protect their jobs, unions moved into politics by making themselves wholly owned subsidiaries of the Democrat Party funneling members’ dues to Democrat causes and making their members available to work on Democrat campaigns. Anyone standing in their way experiences the specter of union threats and intimidation along with union violence to back up the threats.
In the Washington case, Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, issued this veiled threat in support of his ILWU brothers: “EGT are playing with fire, and they know it. “They need to take a big step back and think about what they are trying to force through, then see sense and talk to the ILWI about how to resolve this issue before it escalates even further.” These union threats and intimidation tactics are the norm in labor disputes.
Historically, government has sided with the unions in labor disputes in attempt to lend the weight of the government to the side viewed as less able to hold its own against powerful business interests. After all, wealthy corporate owners can better afford a work stoppage than workers living from paycheck to paycheck when it comes to providing for the necessities of life. That reasoning might have been true back in the day, but time and events have long overtaken the reality of the current situation.
In today’s world, small businesses do most of the hiring and they struggle under government regulations and taxes. Large corporations enjoy the luxury of being able to move entire operations overseas and thus deny workers even the chance of jobs when the risk-reward system is out of balance. In those cases, union power is no match for a small business on the brink of bankruptcy or a corporation assessing more favorable conditions overseas. Unions can’t keep a bankrupt small business afloat or a factory from moving offshore.
Government interference has resulted in bizarre situations such as the recent case where the NLRB is suing Boeing to stop their opening of a new plant in South Carolina to assemble their new 787 Dreamliner due an inability to keep up with the flood of new orders for the plane. Union workers at Boeing’s Everett, Washington operations sued to stop Boeing from opening the South Carolina facility because South Carolina is a right-to-work-state and Boeing’s presence there somehow threatens union membership. These are the silly rules and regulations that are preventing an economic recovery and prolonging the suffering of Americans that President Obama claims to want to discard.
American unions have ingrained a tradition of threats and intimidation into their members that has resulted in their inability to accept the fact that they’ve priced themselves out of the labor market. They watch manufacturing jobs disappear overseas and their living standards erode before their very eyes and are unable to realize that their union leaders are the ones most responsible for their diminished opportunities. They would rather bankrupt a company than believe management is being truthful about its corporate condition.