The supply chain crisis and the day to day reality of truckers

Goodness me.

Today, after my romantic reflections on trucking a few weeks ago, the New York Times has advanced the story. Twice.

This is one of those moments when I wish I was occasionally possessed by a swollen amour propre so I could brag about my foresightedness, wisdom and such and stuff. So I could suggest with an utterly fake blush that the Times has been prompted by my post.

Nah. My post, indeed, was itself prompted by a Times story. So let’s just say the Times is on top of this container-ship-and-18-wheeler size story while I’m trotting along behind.

First, I read about Wando Welch — talk about romantic names! — a huge shipping terminal in South Carolina, which reporter E. Tammy Kim covers in her story focused on the problems truckers are having in this supply chain crisis. I loved “meeting” a couple of those truckers, one a very large man and the other a small woman.

Ms. Kim does a wonderful job informing us about how the supply chain flows (or doesn’t), and how it affects the truckers themselves. She and they detached me from the whole romance of trucking thing I was riding on and moved me to the romance of labor unions.

And then an opinion piece, “The Supply Chain Crisis is a Labor Crisis,” by the secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, lays out the picture in his first paragraphs:

From Los Angeles to Felixstowe, England; to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; to Shenzhen, China, the world is witnessing delays and shortages of everything from toys to turkeys. At the root of this crisis is a transport sector that is buckling under the strain of Covid-era conditions. Workers who drive the trucks, fly the planes and crew the ships responsible for moving all these goods — around $19 trillion of world trade annually — have been stretched to the breaking point. Governments have been too slow to act.

With prices of gasoline, groceries and more spiking, the United States should take the lead in restoring order to supply chains before it is too late. By using its influence, the United States should persuade other countries to address an underlying cause of the crisis — working conditions for transport workers.

Very good, Mr. Platten. But am I the only one to notice that the “Chamber” noun in your position labels you a Big Business spokesman and not, despite the “labor crisis” mention in the essay’s title, a workers’ spokesman, except in the Big Brother Is Here To Protect You sense?

Should anyone tell him that price spikes in gasoline are the fault of OPEC, not COVID? Price spikes are produced by corporations, not by supply chain workers.

Mr. Platten’s focus is almost entirely on COVID and lack of vaccinations for shipping workers. He asks the United States to “take the leading in restoring order.” It never seems to occur to him that “working conditions for transport workers” is the fault of transport businesses. And what is the historical remedy for such faults? Labor unions, supported by government.

Or maybe he does understand this. His opinion piece looks to me like a pro-active international business attack on workers and their potential unionization.

I was about to launch a rave on the subject. I won’t. You can take up the rave — which might involve speaking up for unionization and yelling down corporations, and how the Biden Administration has made free vaccines available to everyone, and that means everyone working in the supply chain, and…

Oh, you do it. I’m off to the kitchen to make my daily oatmeal.

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