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Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2002 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Sitting on the docks by the Bay | It was after 5 p.m. Tuesday, and President Bush had just won a court order to end the lockout and put dockworkers back to work for 80 days. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) pickets packed up their signs. "This could work in our favor," said a union member, wearing a Raiders cap, who didn't want to give his name.

Maritime St. in Oakland was lined with waiting trucks -- hundreds of them -- while drivers stood in small groups. Mo, from Manteca, said he supported management. He's paid by the job, he said, and the ILWU's summertime slowdown -- what the union calls a "work safe" mode -- has cost him money for the past three months.

Publicly, the ILWU is steamed at Bush for invoking the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen the ports. The union had agreed to the 30-day return to work as Bush requested, but employers nixed it -- and then got what they wanted, a reprieve that keeps the docks running through the holiday season rush.

Bush did the right thing. Agriculture and industry can't stay in business without shipping in good times. With the U.S. economy tottering toward recovery, he had to act quickly.

That's why even generally pro-labor types like Sen. Dianne Feinstein had pushed to use Taft-Hartley.

But woe to Bush if he believes that now he can sit back and watch. Yes, Bush is busy with Iraq, but if the economy tanks, he tanks.

Yet his administration seems clueless about the dynamics at play here. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is a savvy woman. But she told me Tuesday that she couldn't think of "anything more" Bush could do. She added, "A third-party imposed solution will not be long-lasting. That's why the government has consistently urged both sides to come together and craft an agreement."

Wake up. The Pacific Maritime Association locked out its workers and then PMA President Joseph Miniace showed up at negotiations with an armed bodyguard.

The union's work slowdown cut into the profits of the PMA, as well as those of freight-dependent industries and other workers. There's nothing genteel about their relations.

"What they're trying to do is bust the union. We're fighting for our very survival here," said ILWU spokesman Steve Stallone.

The PMA didn't call back by my deadline. But its story is clear. PMA will save a fortune if it can create nonunion jobs. Also, it has to modernize to stay competitive. No wonder management is more than happy to buy off current workers with a full-time wage of $114,500 and a dream pension in exchange for a future of relatively lower labor costs.

I find it hard to begrudge the union salaries for this dangerous job. Dockworker Lyman Hollins, 32, referred to five deaths on the docks this year, then remarked: "You don't get injured. You get dead."

Will longshore union members engage in a slowdown? Hollins answered, "People will work safely and continue to produce." Which means: Safety rules can, and will, be used to provide cover for disgruntled workers.

The ILWU has angered many with this "work safe" strategy. Industries and farmers aren't rooting for the union. And the union can only fight modernization for so long. If U.S. ports on the West Coast don't modernize, maybe Mexican ports will.

Bush can't just expect the two sides to work something out. He needs to get more involved now, a labor source told me. He should name a panel of executives with good relations with labor and of labor leaders with good employer relations. Let them advise as negotiators hammer out a deal both sides can live with.

Otherwise, Taft-Hartley could yield 80-days of underproduction, followed by a lockout or a strike. And Bush won't have any tricks left up his sleeve to do anything about it.

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10/07/02: For Dems, the mantra ain't "Let every vote count" any longer
09/27/02: Profile in fence-sitting
09/25/02: Achtung, anti-American
09/24/02: Why don't they fear us?
09/18/02: Nobel Peace Prize killer
09/13/02: What you don't see can hurt you
09/06/02: Unequal before the law
09/04/02: To the moon, Jerry
08/30/02: Gold medal in meddling
08/28/02: The summit isn't sustainable
08/23/02: Your tax dollars on drugs
08/19/02: San Francisco, the city of outrageousness, has done it again! Beware and be aware, America
08/16/02:Fraternite, liberte, envy
08/14/02: Academia's swindle
08/12/02: Humane or inane?
08/09/02: See Dick talk
08/07/02: Gore, the Messiah
08/02/02: The compassionate curriculum
07/31/02: No order in the court
07/30/02: West takes on east in the drug war
07/26/02: PC coffee 'brewhaha' Spineless in Seattle
07/24/02: No wonder the rest of the country has been known to sneer at California
07/22/02: Hail, little Caesar
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07/15/02: To win or not to win
07/12/02: A paradise for moderns
07/10/02: Hate crime, terror and murder
07/03/02: "Good things" in stir
06/24/02: True justice
06/21/02: How Davey saved California
06/19/02: Delusions of suppression
06/17/02: The Court's on trial
06/14/02: A real-life Mrs. Cleaver
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05/31/02: FBI, investigate thyself
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05/24/02: The Bible and the stripper
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05/20/02: A modern modest proposal
05/19/02: Euros could don white hats
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05/10/02: Colorblind U
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05/06/02: Conservatism can survive despite liberal bias
05/03/02:A speech like air kisses
05/02/02: Bush should end bad sentences
04/29/02: Get ready America, California is gettin' into the slave reparations business
04/26/02: Saudis' money for martyrs
04/24/02: Oooh la la, Le Pen
04/15/02: Drill Alaska -- for the children
04/11/02: A good marriage with an esteemed soul mate -- well, nothing beats it
04/09/02: Tied up and Taliban
04/05/02: No justice in reparations
04/01/02: Schools, yes; fat police, no
03/25/02: The government-induced doctor shortage
03/22/02: Conservative hypocrisy on school drug testing?
03/20/02: And now, about Russell Yates . . .
03/18/02: Bush isn't worried about alienating loyalist voters
03/13/02: No exit strategy
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03/06/02: He got away
03/01/02: Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah
02/25/02: These are good days for veep
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02/15/02: Dose of justice needed here
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02/01/02: End the coverup
01/30/02: Try this for "troubling"
01/25/02: Camp X-ray or Club Med?
01/23/02: Let's stop the deluge of porn e-mail
01/21/02: No 'Little Boy Lost'
01/16/02: Son of Supercar
01/12/02: Beware the European view of the death penalty
01/09/02: Other people's children
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12/31/01: In America, punishment should fit the crime
12/28/01: What I'd like to see in 2002
12/24/01: Don't heckle ink monopolists
12/21/01: Mumia finds safety in numbers
12/19/01 The self-help PBS shopping network
12/17/01 Caught on tape
12/14/01 Know when to hold 'em
12/10/01 Old friends
12/06/01 I read the news today, oh boy
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11/28/01 Admissions and omissions
11/26/01 Guns and abayas
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11/19/01 Guilty, a la carte
11/14/01 Interpreting the entrails of Election 2000
11/12/01 Life and liberty
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11/05/01 Bumped Pakistani's molehill
11/01/01 Freedom snuffed out
10/29/01 Give war a chance
10/26/01 Airline bill needs liftoff
10/22/01 The Riordan Principle
10/19/01 Before America gets tired of the war on terrorism
10/17/01 Patriot games
10/15/01 I was a 'McCainiac,' and I have seen the light
10/12/01 University of Censorship's fall semester
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10/07/01 Don't feed Israel to the beast
10/05/01: bin Laden is not our Frankenstein monster
10/04/01: Where no man has gone before
09/26/01: Who's bloodthirsty?
09/26/01: What's to understand?
09/20/01: Barbara Lee's line in the sand
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07/03/01: The man who would be guv
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06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
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05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
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05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
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04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
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04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
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03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
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01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
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12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders 12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
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12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?

© 2000, Creators Syndicate