East Coast Dockworkers' Strike Could Slam Economy

Union threatens action starting Sunday
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 27, 2012 7:23 AM CST
In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, a container is loaded onto a ship from China at Massport's Conley Terminal in the port of Boston.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

(Newser) – Some 14,500 dockworkers are ready to walk out on strike Sunday, and it could shutter ports from Boston to Houston and choke the US economy big-time. The longshoremen are "in a crucial place in the flow of goods," says one professor; New York and New Jersey officials say a strike could drain the region to the tune of $110 million in economic output and $136 million per week in personal income, the New York Times reports.

The International Longshoremen's Association is fighting the United States Maritime Alliance, a trade group, over what are known as "container royalty payments." Those payments, in place since the 1960s, amount to about $10 per hour for the workers. The Maritime Alliance holds that the longshoremen make some $124,000 a year, including benefits, while the union says members make more like $75,000, though that doesn't include benefits. "Unless something miraculous happens, I think we’re looking at a strike," says a clothing industry rep. Some 100 industry organizations aren't taking that threat lightly, and have called on President Obama to push for a settlement; the White House weighed in on Thursday.

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