Submitted on Wed, 04/05/2006 - 6:25pm
Disclaimer - The following article is reposted here because it is an issue with some relevance to the IWW. The views of the author do not necessarily agree with those of the IWW and vice versa.
By Richard D. Vogel - Monthly Review, February 2006.
¡Pobre México! Tan lejos de Dios, y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.
(Poor Mexico! So far from God, and so close to the United States.)
—General Porfirio Díaz, President of Mexico, 1877–1911
Capital’s relentless search for cheap labor constantly alters the flow of surface transportation in North America with widespread consequences. The end-of-century deindustrialization of the United States and importation of cheap commodities from the Far East through the West Coast reversed historical east-west transportation patterns and established Los Angeles and Long Beach as the largest ports in the nation. To minimize transportation costs, which for many products are higher than the cost of production, intermodal transportation of containerized imports was developed. Manufactured goods are packed into mobile shipping containers at factories in the Far East and travel by ship, train, and truck to distribution centers and, ultimately, consumer outlets across the United States. Currently, intermodal transportation of cheap imported commodities is the lifeline of the American economy. In 2004, the Port of Los Angeles processed 7.3 million container units and Long Beach handled 5.8 million. These two ports alone accounted for 68 percent of the West Coast total and are, by far, the largest employers in California. U.S. workers, who have seen so many lucrative manufacturing jobs moved overseas, assumed that import transportation and distribution jobs could not be offshored and were, therefore, relatively secure.