Wednesday, December 05, 2012

It's the Leverage, Stupid

This is good news:

Work resumed Wednesday at the nation's busiest port complex after a crippling strike was settled, ending an eight-day walk-off that affected thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in cargo. ...

Clerical workers who said that shippers were outsourcing their jobs struck on Nov. 27 and thousands of dockworkers in the same union refused to cross picket lines, paralyzing much of the port complex that handles 44 percent of all container cargo that arrives by sea nationwide, including items such as cars from Japan and computers from China.

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement to end the strike late Tuesday, two hours after federal mediators arrived from Washington, D.C. No details about the terms of the deal had been released by early Wednesday, though a statement from the workers' union said it had won new protections preventing jobs from being outsourced. ...

The clerical workers had been working a couple of years without a contract. It seems clear that they finally pulled the strike trigger at the point where they had the most juice. It helped mightily that dock workers honored their line and stayed off the job.

Now there are those who will scream: "The clerks played dirty! They should have stayed in and kept talking! They hurt the economy!" (etc. etc.) Me, I admire their skill and tenacity. These folks finally got a result they could live with, after years of trying. (I'm guessing shutting down the port really, really helped in that regard.)

Here's the cold, underlying reality: Strikes are only unfair and unjust if you're on the wrong side. As I say over and over: There is no fair or unfair, but only the result you can achieve.

With negotiations, as with many things in life, the important element is who's got the most leverage, not who's on the side of the angels. (It took me a long time to figure this out, longer still to accept and embrace it. Once I did, my stomach stopped tying itself in knots so much. I realized the "fair" and "unfair" thingie is mostly in the eye of the beholder.)


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