Labor Struggles on the Waterfront

As Marc Levinson explains in ch. 6 of The Box, organized labor in New York was not initially prepared to face the challenge of containerization.  The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) on the East Coast and the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) on the West Coast were often at odds and pursued different policies to guard against job losses due automation, so there was not a united national labor effort.  In the East, the ILA was organized with strong locals that were often plagued by corruption.   Budd Schulberg, the screenwriter of  On the Waterfront, wrote several articles that describe the near civil war among New York dockworkers.  The Brooklyn ILA Local 1814 in the Red Hook was perhaps the most notorious of all.  I wonder if the unions had been more united would they have been better able to preserve the working waterfront?  Or were they hanging on to an obsolete economic model?  It is easy in retrospect to blame labor for not having a more forward looking vision of the working waterfront rather than play defense preserving the dwindling number of longshoremen  jobs.  I also wonder if there are lesson for other industries that are facing rising labor costs and technological obsolescence that can be learned from the deindustrialization of the Brooklyn waterfront.

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30 responses to “Labor Struggles on the Waterfront

  1. I will view the movie with much more insight after these readings. Thank you for providing them. Schulberg did wonderful research for the film, and was obviously passionate about the story. The passage about Fr. Pete was moving. As college teachers, it seems like we are facing encroaching technology—In some ways technology helps us do our jobs better, but sometimes we talk about how our lessons and lectures can be converted to electronic formats and classroom teaching could become obsolute, no? Currently, we also are facing decisions about the growing strength of a union at my school.

  2. jennifer hauss

    I loved the description of Gleason as having “a mind like a ferry boat – he doesn’t have to turn around to move forward or backward.” We’ve all known strategists and maneuverers like this, I think, especially on college campuses.
    I’m also struck by the colorful, descriptive lingo used to describe the industry: doing lovely, the shake up, chenango.

    This labor situation reminded me of the rights issues facing cable tv and the music industry. Revolutionary changes in technology and the Web have changed the way we access our entertainment, and these industries are being forced to play defense – like the longshoremen.

    • As soon as I saw “chenango,” I wrote it in my notebook so that I could use it in a future poem.

      Interesting connection to the struggles of the entertainment industry!

  3. Like Deb, this reading will give me the context for viewing the movie for the first time. Reading it reminded me that people will always find a way to work whatever system gets set up to their own personal advantage, resulting in this case in the corrupt system that existed on the waterfront. (It reminds me a bit of a rant I’ve been on lately about online classes and the inability to track how many any given faculty member–full-time or adjunct–is teaching for any number of colleges. I believe there are people out there who have taken on the equivalent of two or more full-time teaching loads by “piecework” of classes from various institutions. While I have concern about the effects on the quality and integrity of what students are getting, I can somewhat understand someone’s seeing an opportunity and taking advantage of it, particularly adjuncts who feel poorly treated by the system that currently exists.)

    I moved to Waterloo, Iowa, the home of John Deere tractors in 1984 during a tough economic time for that factory and other major employers like meatpackers here, partly due to the overall economy but also due in part to machines taking over work that people used to do. It was the beginning of changes in the union at Deere (many would say the breaking of the union) and resulted in Rath Packing closing and being replaced by Tyson, a much less “union-friendly” employer. We have a teachers’ union at my community college, as do most in Iowa. My college went through last spring what many of us consider some union-breaking responses to our tough economic times; we ended up in the headlines of the Chronicle of Higher Ed as a result of the extreme measures. The larger economic forces behind such changes and the nuances of the process from this reading reminded me of what I have seen happen here.

    • Dale T. Adams

      Karla,
      I too, as an ex-division chair in a Texas community college, have serious reservations about the number (17! for one full-time instructor comes to mind) of on-line classes at more than one college. Texas is a “right to work” state, and teachers can have unions only if they have in their by-laws that they do not claim the right to strike. I was president of our faculty union at one time and did indeed experience administrative union busting tactics. It will be interesting to exchange stories at the workshop.

  4. The inability or lack of will on the part of organized labor on the Brooklyn Waterfront seriously affects the scale of investment in the borough. Industry and environmental issues are not mutually exclusive. The city needs revenue generated from taxes that industry provides. People also need jobs. On the other hand, the air quality, destruction of the scenic nuance, the rise in noise pollution are drawbacks to more industry. A partnership between industry, labor and the city should be able to come up with meaningful compromises.

  5. I live and work in Chicago and am a career-long member of the AFT. In my early years of teaching, I resented the union’s role in protecting the jobs of people working not nearly as hard as I for far more money; having survived one bitter strike and now being on the higher end of the pay scale, I am grateful for the union. Surely, at the City Colleges, we would all be adjuncts without it. During my tenure, we’ve gone from a 4-course load to 5, seen the counselors’ jobs eliminated (they were faculty positions; now we have “college advisors” with bachelor’s degrees, low salaries, and no tenure, who do the equivalent of piecework advising), and in Illinois, as in many states, witnessed a two-tiered pension system recently enacted.

    The parallels with the longshoremen’s situation jumped out at me; it was easy for me to see the folly of the featherbedding and make-work situations and the inevitability of the loss of that kind of physcial jobs, but when I look at our profession and wonder if all classes will be available free online, if everyone will teach students “distantly”, if bricks-and-mortar schools will go the way of bookstores, I feel the pain. Of course education of the mid-21st century will look different, and perhaps some day someone will pinpoint and document the change, but it alams me. The article in this week’s NY Times about the difficulty of older workers’ being retrained for jobs hit home. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/business/economy/13obsolete.html?scp=1&sq=older%20workers&st=cse

    On the local scene as well, the union workers who staff McCormack place, Navy Pier, and our other convention venues have just taken a hit in a deal designed to keep or bring back convention business being lost to non-union cities around the country. http://www.suntimes.com/business/2184374,mccormick-place-conventions-042110.article

    Broad social and economic changes are interesting to study but not always so much fun to live.

  6. Schulberg’s description of the dockside environment ( http://wp.me/pU81y-17 ) is grittier than that of Levinson’s, and the former describes the crime in a much more detailed and understandable way than the latter, which gets too intricate in the back and forth union fight ( http://wp.me/pU81y-13 ). However, Levinson’s lengthy narrative offers the feel of real union issues. I, too, have been witnessing some union activity on my campus, and I admire those so involved. Because I’m relatively new, I take a backseat to the goings-on, so that I can learn about unionizing–how it works and how it doesn’t.

    I can’t remember if I’ve seen _On The Waterfront_. I think that I know so much about it and I’ve heard about it for so long that I may be creating it in my mind (which, I suppose, is the kind of thing we were discussing last week). I do know that after reading the excerpts from _On The Waterfront_, I, like some of the rest of you, am excited to watch it (either again or for the first time).

    Additionally, I watched _A Hole In A Fence_ ( http://wp.me/pU81y-17 ) and found that the struggle of unions in the other two sources parallels the struggle of the people who live in Red Hook against IKEA moving into their territory.

  7. I did my doctoral dissertation on unions in oil refineries around Houston. In the late 50’s and 60’s, they faced similar challenges involving automation and reorganization threatening their jobs. They faired even worse than the longshoremen did. There, the companies could bring in new technology at will, which enabled them to automate to the point that the union couldn’t effectively strike anymore, destroying their leverage. The two longshoremen’s unions were relatively forward thinking in that they were able to get work rules and equipment explicitly defined in their contracts. The companies needed their permission in order to bring in the containers and the like. The unions gave them that permission because, as Bridges pointed out, there was no way the government would back them up in keeping such a large section of the economy inefficient in order to keep their jobs.

    Basically, even a powerful, forward thinking union runs into a brick wall on the questions of efficiency and privilege. Almost every national political system of the 20th century, whether free market or Marxist, justified itself in some way on the basis of efficiency, that it could thereby create new wealth that would provide the greatest good for the greatest number. If you’re standing in the way of that, you wind up with the whole force of the system arrayed against you. The longshoremen never stood a chance against that. And to be honest, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. As Mike Johnson pointed out in his articles, the increased costs from organized crime on the docks hurt every consumer in America. The increased costs from inefficiency wouldn’t have hurt them any less. Should the dockworkers have been privileged to keep their traditional way of life at the expense of everyone who relied upon them? The system in the 1950s said no, and the system at least had a point.

  8. The success of the longshoremen in resisting technological changes was remarkable. The ILA and ILWU history stands as a testament to their leverage with local politicians. Robert Wagner jr kept the union endorsement by putting money into dock improvements instead of supportint the building of a containerized port facility in Brooklyn. In New York City local politicians kept trying to keep the Brooklyn waterfront zoned for industries that would employ blue collar labor, but as factories moved or declined in number that turned into a devil’s bargain of waste hauling, waste management, oil and gas storage, creating a much more serious toxic legacy. They couldn’t close the chemical plant that made Red Hook a PCB nightmare? They couldn’t change the waste management system to protect the health of Brooklyn’s children? o, every working class job was taken into the numbers as a serious accounting for the city. Every new Hispanic resident in Williamsburg was integrated into an existing ethnic voter alliance that historically supported Democrats. In the mean time the city became a global center for cultural production industries based on new technologies, and their ’employees’ with their artsy apartments were viewed with suspicion. The new residents could not easily get the zoning changed to accomodate their use of underutilized, old warehousing and manufacturing lofts as live-work spaces. The city governments and their electoral base alliances have shaped the history of NYC. In other parts of the country, the working class were not as well organized or protected and their worlds changed in disregard for their needs and opinions. For me, the devil’s bargain was the idea that waste management meant jobs and economic activity, regardless of human well being.

    As for today, I look at the strangulation of the book printing and binding industries by the rise of electronic resources, e-books and e-journals online. The budgets to rent access to e-resources has forced librarians and schools to buy fewer print books and print serials. Binderies are bankrupt and closing all over America. Publishers have just gone through a decade of frenzied mergers and acquisitions, and in the outcome, the few remaining corporate publishers/owners of the mill/ will only publish online or what they can sell many copies of in the mass market of e-books and print books. Millions of writers in journalism have been displaced, contracted out. Everyone works on contract now, there are few full salaried positions for writers, editors, project directors. Few people in my generation will have adequate retirement or any retirement savings. Students stop reading print. Blog writing styles are less formal. The blogs are usually sloppy or not edited carefully by a professional staff checking over the writer. I just read the Reed Nautical Almanac Guides to the Atlantic and Carribean will cease publication because the corporate parent holding the copyright cannot make enough money off production. A small, independent publisher in the UK has bought the rights to the UK waters. We are all asked to write, produce and publish ourselves. Sometimes we are asked to pay money to see an article published, an extra tax on underpaid and sweated production. The unions saved some retirement security for the older generations that helped build them. That is true in universities. Unions protect the tenured and the people who helped make them. The City University of New York is over half (is it over 60% now?) adjunct or temporary contract teaching staff. It is easy for adminstrations to increase the use of adjuncts for online courses, in part because older professors resist learning the new systems and defend their privileges, and in part because the unions were too weak to regulate or stop change, or could not conceive of what was happening. Like Punch, the older tenured folk squint at the adjuncts and think, oh, he or she is just finishing a degree and will not be here long. No, he or she has a degree, is underemployed, juggles several schools to make a bare living, and is going to be gently let go so that a temp position does not look too permanent after a couple of years. Its a pleasant hell, and I must like it or leave.

  9. In fifth grade, I played Nancy in a school play. I wonder where she is today? What do you imagine? Sing along to a great song:

    Today, Nancy and her poetry and dance performance troup make the urban arts scene sparkle at the bottom. She has just published her second chapbook, substitutes for high school English and has an adjunct contract to teach a poetry course. No, despite appearances she never became a hooker. (Though her student Oliver’s uncle whispered he could get her a good job in a convent school if she wanted to play the game.) Nancy has just decided take the new student loan bailout money for women over age 35, go back to school again and study arts administration (for the money, she hopes). She never married Bill; he dropped out of the Masters program and was last seen in LA working as a telephone sales representative for some business pirates, better pickins than hiding weed in the attic. She outlives him.

  10. As it has already been mentioned a couple of times here in the responses, I think this week’s readings really help set the stage for viewing “On the Waterfront”, a film that I am very much looking forward to seeing. Levinson and Schulberg’s approaches are different from one another, yet both meaningful in discussing the longshoremen’s plights and of evolving dockside environments. For all of their foibles, I tip my hat to the longshoremen’s unions for successfully obtaining some of the benefits that employers accrued through the process of automation.

    I can’t help but think of how transformative the emergence of the internet has been on a multitude of services and industries such as traditional travel agents. I’d be willing to bet that most, if not all who will be attending the Brooklyn workshop, made our reservations individually online rather than utilizing the services of a travel agent. How likely would that have been the case even twenty years ago? I’m not sure how much the deindustrialization of the Brooklyn waterfront informs this issue of obsolescence, but there probably is a link somewhere in there.

  11. Had there been a united national labor effort, the decline of New York port might have occurred more smoothly than it did. The installation of the new technology, nevertheless, could not be halted. The AFL was right in expelling the corrupt ILA in 1953 and courageous, despite its failure, in seeking to set up an honest union to replace it. Even had it succeeded, the inevitable decline could not be stopped. Indeed the efforts by pro-labor leaders like Mayor Wagner, in the long run, could not stem the tide. Competition from the new port terminals which eagerly embraced the march of progress doomed New York and its waterfront labor force. The “obsolete economic model” had to give way to powerful economic forces as the invisible hand of the free market dictated the new configuration.

    The lesson for labor unions in other industries that are facing rising labor costs and tecnological obsolescence is to remain united, honest and free of corruption and truly reflect the interests of its membership. At the same time they must accept the fact that tough choices have to be made that will not always be popular with some of the rank-and-file.

  12. One point that struck me relative to the conflicts that ensued between the ILWU and employers at the Pacific ports was that out of the dissention came very specific roles assigned for each worker, collaborative and scaffolded efforts and ingenious rules for structuring these port operations.
    This dynamic calls to mind and foreshadows the ‘economical’ approach that I and my colleagues (in varying ways) use for teaching group projects: each students fulfills a specific role and the work of each role is scaffolded. For us (the instructors ) to create these roles we must be creative and brainstorm. Likewise, at faculty meetings we ourselves join to brainstorm and scaffold to get the job done and ‘economize’ our own lesson planning.

    In response to reading that the corrupt union head, Joseph Ryan, was disliked, in part, because he had “never worked the docks” I thought of how, inversely, the life experiences of teachers (like union heads) enrich their pedagogy and believe that something of that pedagogy would be lost if replaced by teaching through merely technological venues.

  13. ps 2193jn is Elyse

  14. Certainly containerization brought a crushing wave of change to shoreside labor. The facts speak for themselves: “a containership can be loaded and unloaded in about one sixth of the time required for a conventional cargo ship with one-third of the labor.” What arguments within the old model would work against that reality? The longshoremen were, I would think, desperate to hold onto the status quo as evidenced in their refusal to accept smaller gangs at the 1958 gathering at Madison Square Garden, while their intransigence facilitated the growth of Port Elizabeth. Who could have anticipated a 91% drop in New York longshore hiring during the twelve years between 1963 and 1975? Can’t we trace a similar trajectory with the Big Three who have clung to an obsolete economic model for years, refusing to recognize the tide of change?

    • Perhaps the analogy to the Big Three misses an important distinction. For the auto industry, isn’t it the short sightedness of management that failed to embrace appropriate technology? The consequence is the significant loss of union jobs. If the industry had embraced change instead of resisting it, quite possibly The Big Three would still be viable.

  15. Addell Austin Anderson

    After reading the description of the “dog eat dog” world negotiated by the longshoremen in On the Waterfront, I was reminded of what people are willing to endure when they feel there are not any other options available. Ethical concerns appear irrelevant if it comes in conflict with retaining one’s livelihood.

    The mention of Jimmy Hoffa reminded me of the power he once wielded. I don’t know how many children nowadays can name current labor leaders, but as a child growing up in the Detroit area I probably was as familiar with Hoffa and Walter Reuther as I was with the President of the United States. My father – an independent contractor who owned his own truck – taught my sisters and I that Hoffa could have never risen to the position he held without the help of the “mob.” In the days that followed Hoffa’s “disappearance” in the mid-1970s, I distinctly remember my father telling us – “If anyone finds his body, ain’t nobody going to report it. Nobody wants to get into that mess.”

    Chapter 6 of The Box caused me to reflect once again on the similarities in experience faced by the longshoremen and autoworkers as the nature of their work changed due to automation. However, the aspect of this experience that appeared unique to the longshoremen concerned how changes in job tasks led to more difficult or ill-suited assignments for those with seniority.

    With the initiation of new labor agreements with greater benefits and working conditions, I was a struck by the irony of the men who longed for the good ol’ days when the work assignment process was inhumane, unpredictable and corrupt. It made me wonder whether these men could ever really come to terms with the years they spent in such a dehumanizing system.

  16. While Levinson’s book is enormously interesting and well-written, I have especially enjoyed Budd Schulberg’s writing and have also read his other essays in the book. Levinson helps me understand the economic context of the union activities in the 1950s and 60s, but Schulberg frames the struggle in terms of good men risking everything to defeat the bad guys, such as the McCormacks and the brothers Anastasios. I did not know the extent to which organized crime controlled various locals. I found Schulberg’s description of Father Corridan’s efforts to live out his faith in that violent world quite moving. I know I have not exactly answered the questions raised by our facilitator, but I feel as if I discovered a new hero in this reading.

  17. A quote from Levinson seems so relevant to the (perceived) role of community college educators in today’s economic climate: “On November 19, the union wrote the Pacific Maritime Association offering to discuss new methods and elimination of work rules, with the desire ‘to preserve the present registered force of longshoreman as the basic work force in the industry’ …” (19). Most interesting to me is the emphasis on the “present registered force,” which admits to a changing economy AND a workforce of limited flexibility. (In fact, there seems to be an attitude of ‘just get us through and then you can do what you want with these jobs’ in this statement). How many of those currently unemployed are plagued by similar limits in the information age, and what responsibility do we – as community college educators – have to re-skill them? And to what extent, given the technological and structural limits of our own environments, are we even able to?

  18. Diane Whitney

    One’s sympathies alternate between the laborers and the labor unions, seeing the needs of both sides through the writings of Levinson and Schulberg. As with the coming of the varied waves of immigrants, with their employment needs and impossible struggles with corrupt in-place established leaders, a fair solution is desiraed, one that benefits both sides, but remains elusive.
    So where are they now?

  19. Diane Whitney

    One additional thought: in Mechanization on the Waterfront, by Chris Carlsson , he states:
    “In hindsight we can see that the M&M deal struck by the ILWU was the essence of an arrangement between capital and labor in the 20th century U.S. The union bargained away control over technological change in exchange for payment to the existing workforce and its retirees. Ultimately it agreed to become a much smaller labor aristocracy, although one could argue that the union had no choice under capitalist modernization.” This is a foreshadowing of what was to come in the struggles ahead.
    http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Mechanization_on_the_Waterfront

  20. The sentence most striking to me in the reading was the very last of Chapter 6 of The Box – about how all the labor union bargaining “made the longshore industry a rare exception, in which employers that profited from automation were forced to share the benefits with the individuals whose work was automated away.” Given the human pain and cost of all the jobs/careers over the centuries that have become archaic and in light of all the ways in which the internet in particular is making that happen right now, the fact that one group managed to cushion the blow is amazing, maybe inspiring.

    “The Hole in the Fence” I enjoyed so much, as I’ve walked by “the yard” so many times. I remember the sugar factory – don’t exactly understand how a landmark could have been demolished – I thought preservation was the point of landmarking. My middle daughter is coming for supper this week to see the film, having moved to Red Hook herself prior to Fairway, Ikea, and the now rampant gentrification.

  21. Tarrant County Community College District (TCCD) in Fort Worth, TX just opened a new campus (now five) this academic year. The vast majority of new hires were adjunct with just a handful of new tenured faculty hires along with tenured faculty transferring from other campuses. The TCCD system currently has
    an average ratio of 4+ adjuncts to 1 tenured faculty member. Our DL course offerings in most
    departments are increasing rapidly with enrollment doubling every semester. Levinson illustrates nicely the mechanization of the waterfront and now were witnessing the fluidity of transporting goods as well as services anytime, anywhere. It is clear to me that in order to secure my job status now and in the future I must learn to communicate with my students anytime, anywhere with any device

    • Does your college lose accreditation if the full-time/adjunct ratio gets too extreme? Just the way the Department of Labor tried to introduce some rationality into negotiations between longshoremen and the shipping industry in the 1960s, don’t our accrediting bodies force some level of sanity for the part-time/full-time ratio?

  22. Dale T. Adams

    Both Schulberg’s 2005 “Introduction” to Malcom Johnson’s expose articles collected as “On the Waterfront” and Schulberg’s 1963 “The Waterfront Revisited” are invaluable for those who are familiar with and those who are not familiar with Schulberg and Kazan’s 1954 film “On the Waterfront.” (Apparently, some of our participants will be seeing the film for the first time. I saw it when it was released in 1954, and for my generation it was a seminal film indeed, and I have seen it over 30 times or more, teaching it every semester for the past 20 years in a unit on Hollywood and the Cold War in my History and Development of Motion Pictures class. ) What is not alluded to in our “assigned” readings but what I’m certain will come up in our workshop’s discussion of the film is that Arthur Miller also lived in Brooklyn, was also a close observer of the waterfront union activities, and also read Malcolm Johnson’s expose articles. And Miller and Kazan had planned a waterfront film (“The Hook”), which never got filmed for reasons that are as intriquing as the making of Schulberg and Kazan’s film.
    Levinson’s chapter “Union and Disunion” in “The Box” tells an interesting and predictable story we have seen from the Luddites to container technology to contemporary outsourcing to community colleges’ reliance on 60-70 percent adjunct faculty–with much of the curriculum being delivered as on-line courses. The message of that story, I suggest, is that those who manufacture and sell products (and many now consider education a product) will always prevail in adopting and exploiting whatever means become available–especially new techology–in ensuring greater profits. And individuals, whether unionized or not, have about as much chance avoiding that as they would damming Niagra Falls with a tea strainer. The nationwide waterfront unions were just another defeated player in that narrative. Nevertheless, what was most interesting to me in the chapter–what seems to be the silverlining motif in all these episodes and what contemporary entities facing similar difficulties should look for, the lesson to be learned, as it were–is Levinson’s focus on the “law of unanticpated consequences.” And by and large those consequences have been positive, opening up more work and more opportunities for progress.

  23. I thank Jean Arrington for pointing to Levinson’s conclusion that the hardscrabble union efforts on both coasts made a difference and won for longshoremen the principle that employers profiting from automation need to share “the benefits with the individuals whose work was automated away.” No small achievement.
    The Levinson chapter contrasts union leadership on each coast: the east a mess and the west with a single credible spokesperson. Maybe is it more feasible to achieve the Harry Bridges style where the outcome turns out to be the dynamic increase in employment that the West Coast was to experience. The harsher realities of shipping losses in the older land-cramped ports might be the cause of the bitter intern/intra union conflict that Schulberg relates so well in the Saturday Evening Post article. In either case, both Gleason and Bridges made clear that the interests of workers matter, a concept that is harder to find today.

  24. It was painful to read about the manner in which precious time, energy, and life were wasted by dock workers and their labor leaders during the 1950s and 1960s, but one understands how the power of desperation corralled lower-level employees in compromising their morals and maintaining an allegiance to corrupt leaders. There’s a kind of nobility in those who rebelled against the existing system. In the end, though, they were all fighting a losing battle.

  25. I think I watched “On the Waterfront” many years ago, as the characters and happenings are very familiar. After these readings, I am excited to watch it again with a new point of departure! Thanks for coupling these two readings.

    I do not think a more united union position would have been able to ward off mechanization and globalization over the long-term any more than united Native American tribes could have pushed back the onslaught of European arrivals. The force was simply too powerful in both cases. I am struck, however, by how successful the longshore union was in extracting benefits from the employers engaged in the automation process and subsequent loss of jobs. The long-term, tenacious resistance by the longshore union that forced businesses to provide a level of humane treatment for these workers suggests a more united front than what may initially appear to be. There are true American heroes among these longshoremen.

    These readings on the labor struggles on the Brooklyn waterfront led me to think about a wonderful film I highly recommend titled “American Dream.” It is an Academy Award winning Barbara Kopple film that chronicles the six-month strike in Austin, Minnesota at Hormel in the mid-1980s. The union fought back when management replaced striking workers with “scabs”. What ensues is an intense battle that divided the town and even families into feuding factions. In the end, these Hormel workers did not come out with any dignity or humane treatment. Different circumstances than the longshoremen, but at the center, the same struggle.

  26. I find it interesting the parallels people are making between the decline in the longshoremen and their union and the decline in higher education and their tenure/union. Is the writing on the wall? Will online teaching be the death knell of higher education as we know it?

    I have long been the Cassandra on my campus predicting that online classes will be taught be instructors in China or Indian for a fraction of what administrators pay to Americans. It makes good economic sense, after all, and aren’t we all about the bottom line these days?

    I also find the comparison with the auto industry illustrative. When I did the Henry Ford landmark two years ago, the union men (Local 600) talked around the new contract with the companies that set up a two tiered system for auto workers. The older ones had the same sweetheart deal they had, and the newer ones had a reduced pay and benefits one. In a nutshell, the older men negotiated away the younger people’s future to maintain their present.

    Has that happened in higher education as well? Are the 65% (and rising) of history classes at my campus taught by adjuncts allowing the 35% of us full timers to keep our jobs?

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