Today the bitter legal battle lands in U.S. District Court, where Judge Michael Simon will decide whether to hold the longshoremen in civil contempt. Even if he does, the union can win the war, judging by a recent case in Longview, Wash., where longshoremen shrugged off a federal contempt citation and got their way.
And yet, the longshoremen’s fight is about far more than two jobs. The West Coast’s 21,000 longshore union members are threatened by automation. They appear prepared to use every tool in their considerable arsenal to protect their turf and to acquire additional maintenance and repair jobs that can’t be automated away.