Exporting Jobs: For a week, an 800-member clerks' union shut down most of the vast Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport. Who's winning? Workers in Mexico. Who's losing? Workers in Southern California.
Ironic, isn't it? The clerical workers unit of the longshoremen's union at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike for a week, shutting down 10 of the harbor's 14 container terminals, idling thousands of dockworkers and truckers and costing the local economy an estimated $1 billion a day in lost wages and sales. And for what? To protect jobs, the union said.
In fact, the strike was more like a case of attempted job suicide. As of Tuesday, just before the strike was called off in a tentative deal, 17 giant container ships that would have unloaded at the harbor had been rerouted. Nine went to Oakland, which at least kept them in the state. But some left for foreign ports, including Ensenada and Manzanillo in Mexico.
The port of Ensenada, about 50 miles south of the border, suddenly boomed. Tiny compared with L.A.-Long Beach, it ran at full speed, keeping some 200 dockworkers and 100 clerical and customs workers busy.
With the strike called off, the surge of cargo will end. But a message has been sent to shippers: If they can't rely on the giant U.S. port, the little port in Mexico is there as a backup. And if that message reaches enough ears, that little port won't be so little anymore. Mexico will seize the opportunity created by its complacent neighbor and expand at Ensenada, add the needed rail connections, or build new ports elsewhere. Then the unions in Southern California will really see some exporting of jobs.