Someone left this on Rediscovering Brooklyn, so I’m passing it on:
Great blog! Congratulations! This post about the shipping industry back in the 50′s is very interesting and, of course, raises many questions. I can only recommend a novel by Valerio Evangelisti, Noi Saremo Tutto (2008) or in French, Nous ne sommes rien soyons tout. The book tells the story of Eddie Lombardo and his family, the dock culture between 1920 and 1960.
Someone also left a comment about how I’m a horrible videographer, but I’m keeping that gem for myself.
I’ve posted two links for those who would like to learn more about some of the connections between the film On the Waterfront and labor/corruption issues in Brooklyn.
The first link is to a New York Times article from 1990 describing the final days of Brooklyn ILA local 1814:
The second link is an excerpt from a new book on the New York waterfront called Dark Harbor. The excerpt describes the infamous case of Peter Panto whose life and legend is said to have inspired both Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan to pursue film projects set on the New York 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.