Occupy protests hurt workers

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Editorial

Occupy movement protesters believe large banks, corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans are working in concert against the economic interests of the remaining 99 percent. In their view, CEOs and Wall Street fund managers are paid too much, while they and their companies pay too little in taxes and have too much political clout. The middle class and the poor, they say, are paid too little, pay too much, and are at the mercy of a system rigged to keep them from getting a fair share.

We concede that there are excesses, and that some individual and corporate bad actors have illegally profited through misdeeds. Nor were we fans of the wholesale bailouts of various financial and industrial institutions that should have been left to survive or fail on their own effort. While there is room for some reform, on balance, though, free-market capitalism works.

The Occupy protests have been ill-conceived, poorly executed efforts that failed to articulate any actionable objective. We find the protesters at best nave, and at worst self-absorbed, self-entitled denizens of an alternative reality where personal choices have no consequences and all disadvantage can be blamed on the invisible hand of evil capitalists who keep literature majors, street performers and a host of similarly situated high achievers from receiving the true value society places on their contributions.

To stick it to the corporate interests, on Dec. 12 Occupy groups tried to close West Coast ports. Three terminals at the Port of Portland were shut down. It's unclear how much corporate America was harmed, but the impact on the so-called 99 percent was obvious.

Alvie Shrock was prevented from delivering 50,000 pounds of grass-seed straw bound for the Korean livestock market. Three trucks carrying grass seed destined for Asia and Europe from Smith Seed in Halsey were also turned away, a delay that cost $5,000. The blockade prevented a truck from picking up 40,000 pounds of donated produce for the Perrydale FFA's annual food drive.

Even the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which generally supports the movement, was confused why protesters would take action that cost 200 of its members part or all of a day's pay. Port officials say hundreds of truckers, electricians, longshoremen, rail workers and dockworkers were affected.

Farmers and ranchers have benefited from a robust export business in the past few years, as have workers who transport products to the docks and load them onto the ships. U.S. farmers are trying to court more of that business, but it depends on meeting strict requirements, tight deadlines and delivering shipments on time, every time.

An Occupy spokesman said shutting down trade wasn't the protesters' goal. Who could foresee that blockading ports might delay shipments, disrupt trade and endanger relationships with trade partners? Not the Occupiers, whose scattershot methods have finally produced something tangible besides damage to public property -- financial losses for the working families they claim to support.

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