Peace in the West Coast Shipping Industry

Date01 November 1942
Published date01 November 1942
AuthorPaul Eliel
DOI10.1177/000271624222400124
Subject MatterArticles
147
Peace
in
the
West
Coast
Shipping
Industry
By
PAUL
ELIEL
D URING
a
period
of
slightly
less
than
a
decade,
stevedoring
opera-
tions
in
Pacific
coast
ports
have
passed
through
no
fewer
than
four
distinct
phases.
Two
of
these
represented
dras-
tic
shifts
in
the
balance
of
power
as
between
employers
and
longshoremen.
The
third
represented
a
restoration
of
some
semblance
of
balance
between
the
parties;
while
the
fourth
and
latest
phase
is
one
in
which
substantial
and
important
contrbls
are
exercised
through
an
arm
of
the
Federal
Government.
EMPLOYER
DOMINATION
Prior
to
1934,
in
all
the
ports
on
the
Pacific
coast,
employers
in
varying
de-
gree
dominated
the
industrial
relations
scene.
This
domination
had
been
in
effect
for
at
least
fifteen
years
following
the
loss
by
the
longshoremen
of
a
pro-
longed
strike
in
1919.
In
some
ports
employers
exercised
a
considerable
de-
gree
of
self-restraint,
and
attempted
to
meet
their
problems
with
intelligence
and
understanding.
In
other
ports
there
was
an
almost
complete
absence
of
any
recognition
of
the
problems
of
workers
in
the
industry,
with
the
result
that
la-
bor
relations
were
conducted
on
a
basis
that
could
only
be
characterized
as
me-
dieval.
In
these
ports
were
found
all
of
the
problems
that
arise
from
an
in-
dustry
where
the
employment
relation
is
essentially
casual
in
character.
Here
inhuman
conditions
of
hiring
were
the
rule;
favoritism
in
the
selection
of
work-
ers,
which
was
probably
not
unrelated
to
the
kickback,
was
prevalent;
varia-
tions
in
earnings
between
the
favored
workers
and
those
less
fortunate
were
extreme.
With
the
great
water-front
strike
of
1934,
which
lasted
for
almost
three
months
and
which
seriously
crippled
the
operations
in
all
coast
ports,
although
none
of
them
were
completely
tied
up,
this
era
of
employer
domination
came
to
a
sudden
and
spectacular
close;
for
this
strike,
ending
with
an
agreement
to
arbitrate
by
the
National
Longshore-
men’s
Board
appointed
by
President
Roosevelt,
resulted
in
a
very
real
victory
for
the
workers.
Not
only
was
the
union
of
longshoremen
transformed
by
this
strike
from
a
weak
and
impotent
organization
into
one
that,
over
the
sub-
sequent
years,
continued
to
develop
strength
and
cohesiveness,
but
in
addi-
tion,
the
terms
of
the
award
of
the
National
Longshoremen’s
Board
gave
the
unions
practically
everything
for
which
they
had
been
striking.
UNION
DOMINATION
The
end
of
the
1934
strike
inaugu-
rated
the
second
phase
of
industrial
re-
lations
in
the
shipping
industry
on
the
Pacific
coast.
This
phase
lasted
until
late
1940.
During
this
period
the
unions
of
longshoremen
were
in
a
com-
manding
position
to
impose
their
will
upon
the
employers.
Responding
to
the
accumulated
antagonisms
that
had
de-
veloped
over
the
previous
fif teen
years,
and
backed
by
aggressive
and
militant
leadership,
these
workers
assumed
al-
most
complete
control
of
many
func-
tions
normally
exercised
by
manage-
ment.
Not
only
were
the
unions
able
to
establish
and
guarantee
to
workers
the
ordinary
safeguards
that
go
with
a
strong
labor
organization,
but
over
and
above
that,
through .
resort
to
illegal
stoppages
and
other
forms
of
economic
pressure,
these
workers
were
able
pro-
gressively
over
the
years
to
establish
minute
controls
over
job
conditions.
Most
important
of
all,
by
a
process
of
gradual
attrition
they
were
able
so
to
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