Third, and perhaps worst of all, the unions have for years fought efforts to automate ports on both the West and East coasts—just as they fought containerized shipping and computers decades before that. In 2018, for example, the ILA negotiated an agreement for Gulf and East Coast ports (including “right to work” Georgia and South Carolina) that includes both “generous pay increases” for union longshoremen and “landmark protections against job‐​killing fully automated ports” (essentially prohibiting full automation at covered ports through 2024). As the JOC reported, the ban on fully automated terminals “quash[ed] shipper hopes that some of the East and Gulf coasts’ more expensive ports— among them the Port of New York and New Jersey— might harness automation and technology to cut costs and improve efficiency.” Back on the West Coast, the ILWU has long‐​resisted port automation efforts and is gearing up to make that a big focus of upcoming contract negotiations in 2022. “Those robots represent hundreds of (lost) jobs,” one ILWU official said. They’re even fighting automated ships too—in solidarity with their unionized brethren on the sea.

America’s Ports Problem Is Decades in the Making | Cato Institute