Why I quit working as a longshoreman
One of the most-visited pages on my website is this one about working as a longshoreman.
Even though it's been years since I quit, people still visit the site... and ask me questions about the job.
I get it.
At one point I thought being a longshoreman was something to strive for.
The reality is, it's no longer the job it once was.
Things may be different at other ports, but where I worked — the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach — had too much politics and bullshit going on.
I worked for 9 years as a casual.
The only way for me to get a steady job was to put in more hours.
But since the company — PMA — flooded the workforce with temp workers (i.e., casuals), it was near impossible to add more hours to your work history.
This benefited PMA big time, because casuals don't earn benefits or a pension.
I can't imagine how much money the company saved from doing this... and the fact that the union didn't do anything, frustrates me.
While all this was going on, friends and family were getting in through the backdoor as mechanics.
This meant that while my coworkers and I had thousands of hours of experience on the waterfront, baby-faced dockworkers were getting permanent jobs through a loophole.
To add to the bullshit:
There was zero incentive to do a better job on the waterfront.
Since the only way to make more money is to work more hours, I was not motivated to work harder, smarter, or give a damn about the work I'm doing.
Longshoring is a well-paying job — and it should be when you consider how dangerous it is —, but only when you work steadily.
What most people don't realize is to become a well-paid longshoreman today requires 25-30 years of time... and a lot of luck.
Because who knows how much different things will be in the future.
Today I'm focused on using my skills to get paid, instead of putting in hours.
I have respect for longshoreman and I miss the culture and my friends, but the job wasn't for me.
As I'm writing this I'm on the 30th floor of a hotel in Penang, Malaysia, looking outside at a docked COSCO ship.
I've come a long way.