Jane Galt responds here to my challenge here for someone to justify Bush’s decision to intervene on the employers’ side of the slowdown/lockout on the West Coast docks.

It seems to me (Jane, please correct me if I’m wrong) that her argument amounts to this:

1. Reopening the ports was justified by the cost to the economy, and to the shippers, of the work slowdown.

2. Unions only exist because of the National Labor Relations Act.

3. By giving unions a monopoly on certain forms of labor, the NLRA artificially inflates wages and gives the unions the power to damage businesses by working to rule.

4. That amounts to a regulatory taking of the employers’ property.

5. OSHA adds to that problem because complying strictly with OSHA rules slows down work intolerably.

6. The goal of the ILWU, like that of most unions, is to slow down technological progress to that people “who don’t have the skills and intelligence to get good skilled jobs” can draw “$80-$160K annual salaries.”

7. “Unions are rigid, combative, and fiercely protective of their turf, the exact opposite of what makes our economy so effective.”

8. So the government was right to intervene on the employers’ side of the dispute; all it was doing was righting a balance that its prior actions had disrupted.

9. In any case, the order to work at normal speed can’t be enforced.

There are two relatively minor factual issues to raise about this.

First, “$80-160k salaries” are largely mythical; a rank-and-file dockworker gets $27.68 an hour, and a foreman $37.50. Assuming 50 40-hur workweeks a year, that comes to just under $56k for the dockworkers, and $73k for the foremen. Overtime can add to that, but on the other hand these are hourly-paid jobs, not salaried jobs, and many workers don’t get to work a full workyear. (Max Sawicky gives the numbers, and links to the actual contracts.)

Second, as Natan Newman explains, no-slowdown orders can be enforced against the union through the court’s contempt powers; the Allied Pilots Association got socked for $45 million for such a violation.

Those two points aside, it seems to me that Jane has given us a clear, honest statement of the case for intervening in this dispute on the employers’ side.

Now an extra-credit problem: Can anyone come up with a justification for what Bush did that doesn’t logically imply repealing the Wagner Act and eliminating unionization entirely?


Jane Galt responds again. I misunderstood her earlier post. She thinks that the government should have stayed out of the stoppage altogether, on the theory that one side or the other would have caved. But given that the government was going to force the docks back open, then she thinks it would have been a taking (morally, if not legally) to make the employers pay full wages for half-assed work.

Fair enough, I suppose, though it assumes that the PMA didn’t start the lockout precisely so as to attract the intervention that in fact took place. But it also means that Jane isn’t really defending what Bush did. Surely there must be some defense. Won’t someone offer it?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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