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The plus of being a longshoreman is having a flexible work schedule...for the most part. That means I can take time off to enjoy my life.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"So... What Do You Do?"

When I meet someone for the first time, I invariably get asked this very question. I cringe everytime I get asked even though I should easily be able to answer. I didn't really know how to respond at first. Now I have a script that I just repeat trying not to sound like I know exactly what their response will be. But, without a doubt it always goes one of two ways. I'll reply that I'm a longshoreman. Most people will give me a blank stare and ask, "... a what? What is that?" Then I'm obliged to explain a job that they have never even heard of or have a vague understanding of in about 30 seconds, about the time it takes for them to get bored with my explanation. So in the interest of time and not wanting to hold an impromptu longshoreman 101 course, I just say, "I'm a dock worker. I do work related to the loading and unloading of cargo at the port." On a rare occasion I'll get a person whos relative is a longshoreman. Without fail they then say something like, "You make pretty good money don't you." And we do make good money and have generous benefits, but that is offset by dangerous work conditions and at times long hours or infrequent work opportunities. If you're making lots of money as a longshoreman you probably have been doing it for 20 plus years, are living on the docks, taking 7 or 8 shifts a week, and working both days and nights. We have a saying in this industry, "Only the strong survive."

I created this blog to shed a little light on what longshoremen do and to share some things about my life as a longshoreman. So if anyone has any questions or comments don't hesitate to leave your feedback. I'll probably post as I get ideas or get requests.

5 comments:

  1. When are they hiring and what do you get paid at the beginning? Loving your blog so far. Please post pictures.

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  2. Awesome pictures. Keep blogging:0 Let me know when they are hiring.

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  3. hey i have a few important questions i am currently serving in the USMC and will be getting out mid 2013 how friendly is the longshoremen buisness when it comes to hiring military and will any of my skills pass on to the longshoremen side for example i tranport millions of dollors worth of aircaft parts everyday like engines blades ect. will that help out at all

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    1. Well, getting hired as a longshoreman (at least in Seattle) is achieved usually by knowing someone in the industry so you can be lucky enough to know when they are hiring so you can sign up for their lottery pick. They only hire when they need more man power. So I really have no clue when they would be hiring again. They could be hiring in a year or maybe not for 10 years... The job market isn't booming and I'm sure they have enough bodies on the waterfront at this time. When they need people they advertise in the newspaper. Then you show up for a shot at getting a number. Then they randomly pick numbers and send you something in the mail if you're picked. And even then you become an unidentified casual. When I was an unID I got maybe one job a month. Advancement is slow and I'm sure being in the military makes you overqualified for the job. Everything is pretty much learned on the job. There is some training but it's not much. When I started I was just a couple years out of high school and didn't know the first thing about being a longshoreman. I wouldn't hold by breath to become a longshoreman. If you can get your foot in the door it's a good side job to make a bit of extra money if you are willing to work nights and weekends and spend lots of time coming down to the hall just to see if you can get a job (which in many cases you won't). If you didn't know every time you come down to the dispatch hall you are competing to get a job with all the other longshoremen. Work gets passed out till it is all filled. If there isn't enough work, you go home empty handed.

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  4. interesting blog, but i suppose i am pretty much too late, seems dead, isn't it?

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