October 16, 2021
By LaMon Begay
Many of you may have seen bare shelves at the store and news broadcasting warnings of a scare Christmas shopping season which news agencies are attributing to the backlog of cargo ships at many of the US ports. Most notably are the ports in California where some 60+ ships are at sea waiting for their opportunity to unload their goods. While this may resemble the height of the pandemic in 2020 where toilet paper and other household necessities were hard to come by and even sold at exuberant prices. Who would have though the US would continue to rely on foreign agents to keep our economy afloat.
According to news agencies and other sources, some of the reasons for the congestion at the shipping ports are linked to employee unions, outdated infrastructure, and poor planning. At one shipping port in Los Angeles County, powerful unions are to blame for limited working hours and days. According to one news agency, the crane operators with seniority can earn up to $250,000 per year, while those with less seniority can earn as much as $200,000 per year. These crane operators are part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
The ILWU was established in 1937, has some 15,000 dockworkers who make an average of $171,000 per year, handles every shipping container that crosses West Coast ports and has the power to shut down all West Coast ports for days.
Another reason for the backlog is due to outdated infrastructure at ports like Long Beach in Southern California, where the infrastructure was not built to handle the much larger cargo ships in use today. Not to mention the fact that the US is decades behind foreign ports in the sharing of commercial data for planning purposes. For example, in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, everyone involved in a cargo vessel’s arrival sees the same information on a common data-sharing platform. Called “PortXchange,” the software makes port calls
“smarter and more efficient” than the use of separate systems or the telephone, according to the port’s website.
In summary, it is frustrating to see just how much the US continues to rely on foreign countries for goods and services that could easily be manufactured here in America. Let’s hope that the warnings of shortages of Christmas gifts translates into an uptick in sales for small business, especially our Hopi artists.
Below are some Hopi sites where you can buy directly from the artists themselves, which allows them to bypass the middleman and get more for their hard work.