REOPENING THE PORTS
The left blogosphere has been full of complaint about the President’s invocation of the Taft-Hartley Act to re-open the West Coast docks. As Sam Heldman summarizes the situation, the union and the shippers were at loggerheads about job protection in the face of labor-saving technological change. The union started a work-to-rule slowdown to put pressure on management. Management staged a lockout. Eugene Scalia, the Solicitor of Labor (a Bush recess appointee after the Senate made it clear he wouldn’t be confirmed) proposed a simple 30-day contract extension, which the union accepted but management rejected.
[Note: Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo notes that Scalia, in private practice, had represented the Pacific Maritime Association, the shippers’ group that staged the lockout. Marshall provides a copy of Scalia’s financial disclosure form, on which he lists PMA as a former client. I don’t know what the rules are about this, but it doesn’t smell right. And it makes it even curiouser that the the union should have accepted, and the PMA rejected, Scalia’s proposal. But maybe the PMA knew how the endgame would play out.]
Bush intervened, and got an order ending the lockout for an 80-day cooling-off period and requiring the workers to work at normal pace. [More on the legal aspects of slowdowns from Nathan Newman.. Note that “work-to-rule” simply means sticking to the letter of the existing contract. “Sanctity of contract,” anyone?]
It’s not hard to see the economic justification for reopening the ports, though whether the lockout truly threatened health and safety, as specified in the statute, is less clear. But can anyone in the right blogosphere come up with either a different statement of the facts or a justification for what appears to be an Administration tilt toward the side that (1) started the work stoppage and (2) rejected the mediator’s suggestion for ending it? Why reward stubbornness?
Jane Galt has risen to the challenge here.
My response is here.