I think I’m in the wrong line of work

I’d do better working in New Jersey’s ports than I would writing books – by more than an order of magnitude!

ON THE WATERFRONT, there’s a longshoreman on the books who washes trucks.

He gets paid $465,981 a year. To wash trucks.

Fired when his bosses discovered he wasn’t actually showing up when he claimed to be working, he nevertheless regained his job—after an arbitrator concluded it was not unusual in the industry for employees to be paid “without being expected to work all the hours for which they are being paid.”

. . .

Part of the reason for those high labor costs, claim waterfront regulators and federal prosecutors, include $117 million in lucrative pay packages that go to more than 400 longshoremen in New Jersey and New York, some of whom are never, ever officially off the clock, every day of the year.

The top 100 dockworkers alone at the marine terminals on both sides of the river each get more than $300,000 a year, according to salary data obtained through public records requests by NJ Advance Media.

One makes $516,996, based on an hourly rate that pays him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a formula of straight time, overtime, double-time, as well as weekend and holiday pay. Another, who works as a timekeeper, is paid every hour that any union member is working. He received $513,382 last year.

The pay scales are all set in the dockworker union’s collective bargaining agreement. But in March, longshoreman Paul Moe Sr., who made $493,029 a year, was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison for submitting false timesheets. While he was also paid for every hour of the day, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark said he was required to at least be physically at the job at least 40 hours a week.

Investigators who followed him testified that he was often seen fishing on his boat in Atlantic Highlands, at the movies, at home or on vacation in Florida or Aruba when his timesheets indicated he was at work.

When a dockworker prepared to testify against him, a not-so-subtle message was left for him. A plastic rat was placed on his front porch, federal prosecutors disclosed in court.

. . .

In an interview, Walter Arsenault, the commission’s executive director, charged that the union’s ranks are replete with high-paying no-show or low-show jobs. Many, he said, go to insiders, relatives and friends.

“Why do we have a port where special deals are made?” asked Arsenault, a former assistant district attorney who once headed the Manhattan District Attorney’s elite special homicide unit. “That’s the question.”

ILA officials declined comment. But during a 2010 hearing on hiring practices at the marine terminals, Harold Daggett, now president of the union, defended the salaries paid to his members.

“I wish all the members earned more than $400,000,” said Daggett. “Forget about $400,000. That’s not a lot of money today. These guys work their asses off out there.”

Daggett himself makes more than $400,000. As president of the national union, he is paid $523,566, according to filings with the Department of Labor. As president emeritus of Local 1804 in New Jersey, he is paid another $156,781, for a total $680,347.

There’s more at the link.

And all those grossly inflated salaries are paid by the businesses who ship goods into and out of those ports . . . and they pass on those costs to us in the form of higher prices.  Consumers in middle America are paying for union feather-bedding in New Jersey.

Rope. Dockyard cranes. Tar. Feathers. Union workers and leaders. Some assembly required.



  1. Come on now, don't be too hard on them. They have to pay a lot of kickbacks in exchange for those cushy no-show jobs, and cost of living in New Jersey is darn high, so they're probably only living an upper middle class life in exchange for the no-show work whose cost has been passed on to us.

  2. It's just as bad in the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach.

    Some of the Longies get a guaranteed two hours of OT on top of a guaranteed 8 hours/day, even if there's no or little work for them.

    Yes, it can be very hard, demanding, physical work. And it can be dangerous working around the big equipment.

    But come on, half a million bucks a year?

  3. An associated factor in those jobs is the high theft rate of goods moving through the port. I doubt it has changed much in the 40 some years since I had peripheral knowledge of the practice. Some of it was stolen to order, some was just opportunistic "oh, yeah, I can sell that stuff easy". We're talking people driving forklifts, and taking some or all of the contents of a crate or container. I gather more of it may now be the container itself taking a short off-dock trip to a warehouse for emptying, due to the more mechanized handling of containers these days. Now that everything is containerized, you are more likely to lose the entire shipment, instead of a percentage.

  4. Amazing quote:

    "Forget about $400,000. That's not a lot of money today. These guys work their asses off out there."

    I wonder what is "a lot of money"?

  5. Well, I work there, and yeah, in the scheme of things, 400k isn't a lot of money, not when you're talking the China liner service, which Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Global Bayonne are all trade hubs for.
    Individually, it's insane, of course. And yet the Port of NY/NJ is perfectly competitive, which tells you how much money is involved in global shipping. It's something of an argument for unionization. At least the money is trickling down and not being concentrated in the hands of the terminal owners like everywhere else.
    10 years ago, after a blazing summer day spent doing fuel transfers, reefer ships on bulk fruit shipping runs in the Caribbean used to give us some of the broken stowage (fruit that falls out of cargo slings or pallets, and it wasn't unusual to have a couple of bushels of pineapples, oranges, mangoes, etc.) This doesn't happen anymore. Broken Stowage or Cappebar is now called 'shrinkage' and is considered theft. OTOH, we no longer perform rounding errors in our math on the fuel end, so ships no longer get 4-5 tons of extra fuel, either. Containerization makes it too much trouble.

    Think about that. We used to shrug off volumes of fuel that could power your car for 5 years in exchange for about $15 worth of fruit.

    Final thought about why the insane stevedore/longshoreman salary bloat in NY/NJ is accepted and hasn't unduly affected shipping rates. Note that the recipients have names that mostly end in vowels… there's a family connection there. Or more properly, a Family connection, if you get me. You know, that thing they call That Thing Of Ours.

  6. Paul, Dammit!June 16, 2018 at 8:36 AM
    Well, I work there, and yeah, in the scheme of things, 400k isn't a lot of money, not when you're talking the China liner service, which Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Global Bayonne are all trade hubs for

    Butbutbut. . You could all be shot as wreckers and your jobs resumed by Mexicans for $20/hr!

  7. You could open a competing port in a right to work state like North Carolina for a fraction of the cost. The beauty of a free market.

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