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243

Beyond the Waterfront: Maintaining and Expanding Worker Power in the Maritime Supply Chain

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Olney, P. (2018). Beyond the Waterfront: Maintaining and Expanding Worker Power in the Maritime Supply Chain. In Ness, I. and Alimahomed-Wilson, J. (eds) Choke Points: Logistics Workers Disrupting the Global Supply Chain. Pluto Press, pp. 243-255

243

While this chapter focuses on the maritime logistics chain and particularly longshore worker power on the docks, its lessons are universal to the discourse on the exercise of working-class power. There are strategic workers and strategic loci in the supply chain and the production process. Such workers and loci are not fixed for all time, but are conditioned by technology, worker political organization, and alliances. Therefore no working-class strategy can be static or frozen in time irrespective of the shifting terrain.

he goes on later to give an example of tool and die makers who used to be very strategic, but now with CAD, their craft has become deskilled. in general, emergence of new tech -> "a new group of skilled workers and vulnerable power points"

—p.243 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago

While this chapter focuses on the maritime logistics chain and particularly longshore worker power on the docks, its lessons are universal to the discourse on the exercise of working-class power. There are strategic workers and strategic loci in the supply chain and the production process. Such workers and loci are not fixed for all time, but are conditioned by technology, worker political organization, and alliances. Therefore no working-class strategy can be static or frozen in time irrespective of the shifting terrain.

he goes on later to give an example of tool and die makers who used to be very strategic, but now with CAD, their craft has become deskilled. in general, emergence of new tech -> "a new group of skilled workers and vulnerable power points"

—p.243 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago
247

The railroads in the United States carry 40 percent of gross national product (GNP), and remain a vital transportation system. [...] railroad labor has been handcuffed by a rigid Railway Labor Act (RLA) passed in 1926 to prevent strikes in the industry. But it is not only the legal handcuffs that shackle rail labor. The fact that there are 13 craft unions for 132,000 rail workers, all bargaining under separate agreements with the railroads, hampers any solidarity. [...]

Here again we have an example of strategic workers at strategic nodes who have vast potential power to impact capitalism, but remain shackled by legal regimes and fractured internal organization. Eric Olin Wright has written a brilliant essay that establishes a framework in which to think about this dynamic. He distinguishes between "structural" power and "associational" power. Structural power is the power of strategic workers in strategic places in the capitalist system. They have power per se, but the question of whether they can successfully leverage and exercise it depends on their associational power: that is, their organization, consciousness, allies, and so on. This interplay is a dynamic way for workers and their allies to think about their work in organizing at strategic choke points.

essay: "Working class power, capitalist class interests, and class compromise" from 2000

—p.247 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago

The railroads in the United States carry 40 percent of gross national product (GNP), and remain a vital transportation system. [...] railroad labor has been handcuffed by a rigid Railway Labor Act (RLA) passed in 1926 to prevent strikes in the industry. But it is not only the legal handcuffs that shackle rail labor. The fact that there are 13 craft unions for 132,000 rail workers, all bargaining under separate agreements with the railroads, hampers any solidarity. [...]

Here again we have an example of strategic workers at strategic nodes who have vast potential power to impact capitalism, but remain shackled by legal regimes and fractured internal organization. Eric Olin Wright has written a brilliant essay that establishes a framework in which to think about this dynamic. He distinguishes between "structural" power and "associational" power. Structural power is the power of strategic workers in strategic places in the capitalist system. They have power per se, but the question of whether they can successfully leverage and exercise it depends on their associational power: that is, their organization, consciousness, allies, and so on. This interplay is a dynamic way for workers and their allies to think about their work in organizing at strategic choke points.

essay: "Working class power, capitalist class interests, and class compromise" from 2000

—p.247 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago
248

[...] breaking out of treating the workers as isolated individuals clinging to elite status on the waterfront, and instead making common cause with workers along the logistics supply chain. Often the workers doing key functions along the supply chain away from the docks are first-generation immigrant workers toiling at minimum wage with no benefits and no job rights. This employment apartheid cannot be allowed to stand, and these workers must become part of the community of the organized. [...]

ah man so relevant to tech!!

on challenges for dockworkers and how to meet them (if ILWU members get great benefits while workers inland are doing similar jobs in marine supply chain with fewer benefits).

he mentions previous efforts to address this through the Chnage to Win Federation, which failed cus they didn't have the "strategic hammer of port workers backing their exciting community and worker outreach". he also later says the future for dockworkers lies in "conceptualizing themselves as logistics workers and not dockworkers" (similar for tech)

—p.248 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago

[...] breaking out of treating the workers as isolated individuals clinging to elite status on the waterfront, and instead making common cause with workers along the logistics supply chain. Often the workers doing key functions along the supply chain away from the docks are first-generation immigrant workers toiling at minimum wage with no benefits and no job rights. This employment apartheid cannot be allowed to stand, and these workers must become part of the community of the organized. [...]

ah man so relevant to tech!!

on challenges for dockworkers and how to meet them (if ILWU members get great benefits while workers inland are doing similar jobs in marine supply chain with fewer benefits).

he mentions previous efforts to address this through the Chnage to Win Federation, which failed cus they didn't have the "strategic hammer of port workers backing their exciting community and worker outreach". he also later says the future for dockworkers lies in "conceptualizing themselves as logistics workers and not dockworkers" (similar for tech)

—p.248 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago
254

Even on dock the possibilities exist to build power if the union can capture the new-technology work that is part of the use of robotics and other automated processes. Union members can be retrained to repair the robots and develop the software that programs and runs the robots. Right now the ILWU is not prepared to capture the new jobs in maintenance, programming, electronics, and data management that have arisen because of the implementation of new technologies on dock and near dock. The union needs to invest in its own massive training program partnering with vocational high schools, two-year junior colleges, and degree-granting universities, to prepare its members to be the workforce of the future. [...]

i concur with the problem but dunno if i agree with the solution. think about this more

—p.254 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago

Even on dock the possibilities exist to build power if the union can capture the new-technology work that is part of the use of robotics and other automated processes. Union members can be retrained to repair the robots and develop the software that programs and runs the robots. Right now the ILWU is not prepared to capture the new jobs in maintenance, programming, electronics, and data management that have arisen because of the implementation of new technologies on dock and near dock. The union needs to invest in its own massive training program partnering with vocational high schools, two-year junior colleges, and degree-granting universities, to prepare its members to be the workforce of the future. [...]

i concur with the problem but dunno if i agree with the solution. think about this more

—p.254 by Peter Olney 4 days, 1 hour ago