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Delving into Beat The Canal leaders

Posted to Martin Rushmere (by on January 19, 2012

Uneasy alliances are in danger of causing a fracture

Strange bedfellows are making strange machinations in the united front (Beat The Canal) to stop the Panama Canal taking West Coast port traffic.

Those dependable stalwarts, the ILWU local union shops, are rejuvenating their efforts to stop vessels calling at Longview's grain terminal, which is hardly likely to persuade carriers to send more ships to the West Coast. (And emotion rather than logic continues to drive much of the rhetoric of the ILWU with the use of the term "scab labor." This is a direct import from Britain's TUC at the height of its dictatorship, just before Margaret Thatcher smashed the unions, and referred to anyone who had different ideas to the union bosses.)

The ILWU is showing equally strange behavior over West Coast; walking off the job at all ports for about 30 minutes when Bob McElrath was in court over the original furor at Longview.

Further reason to doubt its motives comes from the name of its website, www.westcoastportshutdown.org. This could justifiably be seen as a call for general disruption regardless of the consequences.  

Other strange bedfellows swirl around. Mary Nichols, controversial head of California's Air Resources Board, is fully behind the coalition. Yet her state board has imposed unprecedented restrictions, some unattainable, on maritime and related operations (the low sulfur rules are just one example) that will cost $5 billion. Cost of widening the canal -- $5 billion.

Head of the coalition is Wally Baker. Presumably this is the same Wally Baker who was so eager to slam on container fees (a measure that Alan Lowenthal tried to get through the state Legislative Assembly for many years), which importers and exporters were so opposed to. Yet, Mr. Baker is now declaring himself a booster for these same beneficial cargo owners.  

Those ardent standard bearers for standing up to the canal should be wary of another BTC group forming, calling itself Beat The Coalition.

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