Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler…Hopefully

by Peter Link

It is that time of year again. No, spring it not around the corner, and soon the radios and televisions will die out of Super Bowl talk. This time of year is Carnival season. Flights and hotels have been booked, and one of the biggest parties of the year is soon to start. In 2011 an estimated 1.2 million peopled were in The Big Easy to get a taste of Mardi Gras.[1] Millions of dollars are made by the city of New Orleans and hotel room prices increase nearly 151%.[2] Economic booms aside, the most important thing that has made Mardi Gras what it is today is the tradition.

The name Mardi Gras has a literal meaning of “Fat Tuesday.”[3] The idea behind the event is for people to have one “last hurrah” before lent begins.[4] The event itself has various traditions, such as wearing masks, having king cake, and lighting flambeaux.[5] However, one of the most important traditions is the throwing of beads. The original colors of the beads were green for faith, gold for power, and purple for justice.[6] The idea was to throw the beads to someone who represented those colors best.[7] Today, the beads come in all shapes and colors.[8] However, Mardi Gras 2015 may be a little bit different. A current labor dispute on the west coast could potentially delay the shipment of thousands of beads to New Orleans.[9]

Much time is spent in preparing and designing Mardi Gras beads.[10] The problem this year is that they are apparently sitting in containers in west coast ports.[11] The current labor dispute on the west coast is between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).[12] The dispute covers twenty-nine west coast ports, most notably: Long Beach, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma.[13] The two parties have a vibrant recent history of labor disputes. In 2002 the PMA had a ten-day lockout of ILWU workers, forcing President George W. Bush to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act.[14] The President’s actions put the ports back into operation until both sides came to a new agreement.[15] In 2008, negotiations between the two parties leaked past the contractual deadline.[16] While this time no lockout occurred, there were reported slowdowns in work until agreements were made.[17] These past acts give a decent forecast into what may be on the horizon.

The current six-year contract between the ILWU and the PMA is set to expire on June 30, 2015.[18] While strikes are barred in the current contract, the ILWU has taken the route of work slowdowns.[19] The effects have been felt all over the United States, both good and bad. Negative factors include shippers having to accelerate shipments and bring them to different ports in Canada and the United States east coast.[20] This results in holiday shipment delays,[21] like Mardi Gras beads sitting on the west coast as the big day slowly approaches.[22] On the plus side, east coast ports have seen more growth because of the labor dispute.[23] Either way, the ILWU has been able to flex its muscles and place pressure on the PMA. My only hope is that the strength of the ILWU’s muscle does not throw the beads out of the Mardi Gras tradition.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This year, Mardi Gras will take place on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. If you choose to party, please do so responsibly!]

[1] Margaret Rhodes, Mardi Gras Mambo, Fast Company (Mar. 8, 2011, 5:00 AM), http://www.fastcompany.com/1724381/mardi-gras-mambo.

[2] Id.

[3] Catholic Roots of Mardi Gras, American Catholic, http://www.americancatholic.org/features/mardigras/ (last visited Jan. 30, 2015).

[4] Id.

[5] Philip Ross, Mardi Gras History and Facts: The Real Meaning Behind These 5 ‘Fat Tuesday’ Traditions, International Business Times (Mar. 2, 2014, 7:26 AM), http://www.ibtimes.com/mardi-gras-history-facts-real-meaning-behind-these-5-fat-tuesday-traditions-1558852.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] History of Mardi Gras Beads, Punchbowl, http://www.punchbowl.com/p/history-of-mardi-gras-beads (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[9] Labor Dispute Halts Mardi Gras Bead Shipments, WWLTV (Jan. 23, 2015, 6:43 PM), http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/2015/01/23/labor-dispute-halts-mardi-gras-bead-shipments/22245637/.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] US West Coast Labor Negotiations: Frequently Asked Questions, Journal of Commerce, http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshore-and-warehouse-union/us-west-coast-labor-negotiations-frequently-asked-questions_20140523.html (last visited Jan. 30, 2015).

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Journal of Commerce, supra note 12.

[20] Id.

[21] Port Dispute Causes Holiday Shipment Delays, Elementum (Dec. 23, 2014, 1:00 PM), http://www.elementum.com/events/port-dispute/article/index.html.

[22] WWLTV, supra note 9.

[23] The Associated Press, Georgia Ports Seeing Growth From West Coast Labor Problems, Access North GA (Jan. 26, 2015, 11:24 AM), http://www.accessnorthga.com/detail.php?n=284466.

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