I write this column as the vice president of the ILWU Local 13, but more importantly, as a 46-year resident of San Pedro (born and raised). My story is not unique, which is why I am writing on behalf of myself and community.
I wanted to inform you on what is happening in the longshore industry and the effects it will have on our community. APM Terminal, a subsidiary of Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company that operates in 130 countries with core profits estimated last year to be between $3.6 to $4 billion, is looking to fully automate its terminal and eliminate thousands of jobs. The only reason why they want to automate is to get rid of labor, not to be in compliance with the Clean Air Act, because we can achieve those same goals with human-operated machines.
Unlimited automation at the port will eventually destroy thousands of good jobs and that will cause real harm to the greater community and region surrounding the port. Transitioning the largest terminal on the country’s largest port to full automation will have major and significant impacts on the port and surrounding environment. Concerned business owners, service providers, and nonprofit agencies all depend on good jobs at the port.
When machines replace human workers, it inflicts great damage on the community and weakens the country. Robots do not shop in the community. Robots do not pay rent, buy homes, or deposit money in banks. Robots do not pay taxes. And robots do not vote! People do!
Facilities such as the port are public resources that must be held in trust for the public good. The residents of the port cities and the citizens of countries that traffic international trade should derive some benefit from their public infrastructure. The residents must ensure the conservators of these assets allocate a portion of the prosperity generated at the port for the people of the community and state.
Behind the thousands of jobs per day that will be eliminated by this human-less automated equipment, are thousands of workers that contribute to our local and state economy. If we don’t take a stand against automation that eliminates jobs, then essentially, we will be eliminating the human race.
Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, not eliminate jobs that make our lives better. APM can do well by the community and the environment without getting rid of labor. The Union supports clean air for our port and home environment while maintaining a strong workforce with the same clean air equipped machines, with us operating them. This is a direct attack on the middle class and surrounding communities.
The machine that is replacing the workforce has to run off the highly debated 5G network. There are numerous concerns about 5G and the effects it has on humans and wildlife. APM will not have to do any Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which is troublesome because the 5G network is known to cause cancer and many other health-related issues to humans and wildlife. The 5G network is also in debate as there have been concerns about the vulnerability it puts on the ports. Not knowing who is directly in charge opens our ports to security breaches and possible terrorist threats.
The corporations that are pushing for human-less automation are all foreign-owned and don’t have a stake in our community. They are displacing American jobs while their country and corporations benefit at our expense.
The community rallied together on March 21 and showed that we are not going to let Big Business destroy our communities. There were signed petitions and letters of support to do an Environmental and Economic Impact Report to protect our community. Here are some of the numbers: a.) More than 11,000 signatures were signed; b.) More than 200 local businesses signed letters in support; c.) More than 50 legislators have written letters in support; d.) Neighborhood councils from the surrounding communities have written resolutions in support; e.) Local and county democrat parties have written resolutions in support; f.) About 2,500 community members showed their support on March 21.
On April 16, the community rallied again to appeal and reject the permit that would allow for automation. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti asked that there be a 30-day pause to keep the dialogue open between the Union and Maersk.
The community has spoken. This fight is bigger than the ILWU. I will continue to keep the community engaged and informed as we strive to protect our communities and future.
There are facts that prove that humans have produced record-breaking years in the longshore industry, which creates a healthy and prosperous community because workers are giving back and patronizing local businesses. People are buying homes, paying rent and paying for little leagues, softball leagues, dance classes, drama classes, and art classes, because they have good jobs.
Human-less automation will have a domino effect on the workforce, the community, the country, and the future of our children. We must take the time to evaluate the effects of human-less automation and protect the human race now and for the future. Our communities deserve a fighting chance. spt
Gary Herrera is the Vice President of ILWU Local 13 and is a lifelong resident of San Pedro.