Cat Fight: Levinson’s The Box 6: Union Disunion

The ILA, lead by Teddy Gleason, and the International Longshoremen and Warehouseman Union, lead by Harry Bridges, acted like sixteen-year-old girls in a school-year-long battle for who has the best boyfriend.  Seriously.  Levinson’s retelling of the infighting and interfighting within and between unions and lawmakers is one big bickerfest, very difficult to keep up with.  Violent strikes, non-violent strikes, mandatory calls back from strikes, contract negotiations, legal and illegal stoppages, new rules, breaking rules, allegations of Communism, automation, and job security all were at the heart of the battle.  The Mechanization and Modernization Agreement and the Guaranteed Annual Income in North Atlantic Agreement were the product of the permanent disappearance of work due to automation.  These agreements were the first of their kind and were necessary in a rapidly changing environment.  The culture of the longshoreman would never be the same–special skills like working with bulkbreak cargo were no longer useful; nepotism was fading away; and working whenever they felt like it was no longer possible because of less jobs.  Unions across all fields, not just the docks, bargained to protect their workers.  Automation, while helpful in the industry, was changing private lives forever.

Levinson, Marc. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton UP, 2006.


About Christina M. Rau

Poet, blogger, writer, editor, professor
This entry was posted in Brooklyn Industrial Waterfront, Docks and Shipping, Red Hook and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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