Source: Pacific Maritime Association
West Coast shipping cargo in large part is handled by roughly 14,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Management, made up of 79 terminal operators and shipping lines, is represented by the Pacific Maritime Association.
Dock work is dangerous. Containers weighing thousands of pounds move swiftly between ship, truck, and rail via high-speed cranes in frenetic fashion. Workers have to climb high stacks of containers, snake heavy duty cables and dodge massive equipment. According to an ILWU analysis, the work is more hazardous than firefighting or police work.
A longshoreman working 1,600 hours a year—two-thirds of the longshore workforce—earns about $123,000, according to statistics from the PMA. Clerks make $147,000 and walking bosses (foremen) make $209,000 for similar kinds of hours. In addition, workers get a benefits package worth about $93,000 a year. (The chart above gives figures for 2,000 hours a year.)
Industry executives say the union is likely less concerned about pay and more concerned about other issues. One is the contract's duration. Traditionally the ILWU-PMA contract covers three years. But after the 2002 lockout, a six-year contract was instituted as a way of ensuring labor stability for a longer time. The six-year duration was renewed again in 2008 as the economy was struggling and stability was again a priority. In the current negotiations, the three-year term is again back on the table.