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A massive longshoreman strike that was threatened for the first of the year has been averted (at least temporarily) after federal mediators stepped in. No details have been released on the agreements that postponed the strike for thirty days.
While a relatively small group is involved (14000 workers) a strike by this union would shut down cargo and containerized shipments across the Eastern coast. Economists say that such a disruption would cost the US economy over one billion dollars per day. At the base of the dispute was cargo royalties, a system that compensates a worker up to $15,000 per year.
There may be a broader issue as organized labor has recently become more aggressive in achieving its objectives. Recently, a clerical worker strike on the west coast clogged cargo traffic for days as longshoreman refuse to cross picket lines.
Dock workers and longshoreman are one of the few unions that have actually gained strength in the US lately. Shutting down import and exports essentially hurts the entire country, so this is probably the area that unions believe they have the most leverage. Recent activity by the unions shows that they are willing to step up disruptions, even at the risk of political or public relations damage.
The bottom line is companies that rely on imports or exports have something more to keep their eye on this year. Labor unrest still has the potential to disrupt ocean cargo traffic over the next few months.