I was out this weekend with friends at a Karaoke Bar, having a good time and letting go of the weeks’ events. As the get together went along, I was heavily persuaded to get up and sing. Well, little did I know that my singing efforts would turn into a foray of dock history. The song chosen at random happened to be “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. Part of the lyrics are “Tommy used to work on the docks – Union’s been on strike.” I was curious about the origin of the song. Some of the lyrics are rumored to be about the dock strike of 1977 in Ireland.
How Long Have Docks Been Used?
According to Wikipedia, the world’s oldest dock was located in India in 2400 BCE and was designed to berth and service ships, along with avoiding deposition of silt. In addition to applying to boats, docks also apply to areas where cargo is loaded and unloaded from a truck or semi-trailer.
Are Dock Strikes Common?
Centuries later, with the emergence of docks and commerce around the world, men and women alike are called upon to load and unload thousands of shipping containers per week. With these employees come a dockworkers union and port operators who must work in unison to avoid dock strikes which have the ability shape and shift the economy. Dock strikes are rare and typically resolved quickly. The first dock strike was in 1934, while the biggest strike was the West Coast Dock strike of 2002. The effect was $1B a day. That is a lot of money and shows that dock workers have the power to criple an economy.
Supply Chain: Made in Asia vs. Made in the USA Products
Consider a product shipped from Asia vs. the USA. We order a product from Shanghai. It is loaded into a boat and sent across the Pacific to a port in California. It is then unloaded from a boat and on to a truck, or possibly on to a train. Consider how much more fuel is required to ship the product from Asia to the US. As the cost of fuel and the cost of labor rises, products made in Asia will become more expensive. There has also been the scare of products tainted with dangerous chemicals. Many other countries do not not require level of safety as the US government on food products and childrens’ toys.
Threat to Strike in December 2012
Last December dock workers made the news when they threatened to strike from east coast to west, a move that could have cost a billion dollars a day and affected both retail and restaurants including Walmart and McDonald’s. The strike ended after 8 days but could have ruined the holida shopping season of 2012. What was the reason for the strike? The worry that California dock worker’s jobs would be outsourced to Arizona or China or elsewhere. Wages in California are nearly double what they are in Arizona (USAToday).
The dock industry has evolved over the years leading to an increasing volume of transported materials, greater amounts of invested money. Dock workers who were once low-skilled labor are now highly skilled workers who work multiple shifts. Safety continues to be an important issue for dock workers. Having the proper dock equipment will prevent a slip, trip or fall, which costs lost time and productivity – and badly needed lost wages. Dock boards and dock plates are some of the important safety equipment that allow materials to be transferred from trucks and semitrailers to loading docks.
For years, Handi-Ramp has been selling this equipment to assist workers in safely unloading merchandise. All dock boards and dockplates are manufactured to order (most ship within four business days), and many are customizable to your needs. For more information about loading dock safety and equipment contact Handi-Ramp at (800) 876-7267.