Port strife ends — but damage was done

port of Los Angeles, wikimediaAs mentioned in a Feb. 14 blog, the West Coast dock strife wasn’t likely to last long because of the new competition from Gulf Coast and Mexican ports. So now a new contract has been reached with dock workers.

Yet any shipping lost in recent days might never come back.

Houston, in particular, has been building its port into a mega-facility. As Joel Kotkin wrote recently:

The Port of Houston, connected with the Gulf of Mexico by the 50-mile Houston Ship Channel, is now the nation’s Number One export hub, feeding off the energy revolution and expanding economic exchange with Latin America. Mexico and Brazil are by far the port’s largest trading partners. Houston’s port business has grown almost fourfold since 2000 — far faster than either New York’s or Los Angeles’s. Port officials estimate that the trade sector contributes $500 billion in economic activity and more than 1 million jobs to the state of Texas annually.

This is one reason why Houston and the rest of Texas are weathering the current downturn in oil and gas prices better than they did a similar downturn in the late 1980s.

Back out here on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Times reported it may take a while to return to normalcy:

West Coast ports are emerging from the most contentious labor dispute in more than a decade, but lingering resentment and structural problems may complicate a return to normality.

Activity picked up Saturday at Western harbors after the dockworkers union and employers reached a tentative agreement late Friday on a new five-year contract that will cover 20,000 workers at 29 ports.

Although there are obvious differences, this is somewhat like how a 2011 grocery worker strike was avoided in Southern California. That was unlike in 2003, when a four-month strike cost grocery companies $2 billion in profits and shook up the entire industry, including mergers, multiple store closings and greater use of automated tellers.

Despite its problems, the U.S. economy in most ways remains diverse and competitive.

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for CalWatchDog.com, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles, LewRockwell.com, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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