Tesla Semi is First Existential Threat to Powerful Longshoreman’s Union

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AP Photo

With Elon Musk tweeting that ‘Tesla Semi’ all-electric big-rig tractors will debut in September, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s members that make up to $1,200 a day, face their first existential threat after dominating West Coast ports for 80-years.

Breitbart News reported that in February 2015, America’s best-paid union members that are organized by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) caused eight weeks of slow-downs and shut-downs at the 29 West Coast ports that stretch from San Diego to Alaska, and are responsible for moving 43 percent of U.S. exports and imports.

By 80 percent of unionized heavy crane operators coordinating a calling-in-sick scheme, the union forced Pacific Maritime Association employers to pay 50 to 100 percent “premium pay” for overtime and holiday, on top of wages that can exceed $1,200 per day.

The Pacific Maritime Association employers could fully automate the loading and unloading cargo ships, but the key to the union’s power is their ability to intimidate trucks drivers to not cross an ILWU picket lines.

Despite most 13,500 ILWU brothers and sisters being mostly semi-skilled workers, the union’s power comes from its historic ability to retaliate against non-compliant truck drivers through physical intimidation and slowing down drivers’ loading and unloading. By the time the employers caved and the strike settled, estimated losses were $7 billion.

With a huge merchandise back-up taking months to clear the ports, Elon Musk published ‘Master Plan, Part Deux’ in July 2015 as a visionary business plan for Tesla as a profitable industrial powerhouse. Although the most analysts dismissed this manifesto as typical Silicon Valley hype, Part Deux specifically focused on Tesla building autonomous (self-driving) electric-powered Class 7 and 8 heavy-duty tractors.

Musk’s Master Plan did no talk about electric powered long-range big-rig trucks, but rather focused on the advantages of autonomous drayage trucks that could run on electric power while lining up to move containers or pre-loaded trailers over short distances.

It is unclear if Tesla cars will ever make a profit, but Tesla Semi could be wildly profitable, given that Tesla’s Autopilot already has over 1 billion miles of autonomous driving experience and the company’s Gigafactory will soon be able to deliver 35-gigabytes of battery power.

According to Trucking.com, there are 3.63 million class 8 trucks on the road in 2016 and they moved 70.1 percent of total U.S. freight. Drivers spent $142.9 billion on diesel fuel, including $39.9 billion in federal and state fuel taxes. With many trips scheduled at night to avoid traffic jams, there is currently a 25,000-driver shortage of available drivers.


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