If you hold a person hostage, you’re a kidnapper.

But if you’re a labor union and you hold a company, or even a nation, hostage, your actions are sanctioned and protected by the United States government.

Take, for example, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), currently sabotaging West Coast shipping operations. Last July, the ILWU’s contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) expired. 

Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing. PMA claims it has offered to raise the dockworkers’ pay by about 3 percent annually over the next five years, from $35.68 to $40.68 per hour, among other concessions.  (In fact, with overtime the workers already make an average of more than $50 per hour.)

But this isn’t enough for the longshoremen, who have engaged in work slowages and other acts of sabotage on the job ever since their contract expired in an effort to gain negotiating leverage.  Needless to say, the union’s behavior has complicated contract talks. As PMA spokesman Wade Gates put it:

"PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion.  The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay."

A shutdown of these ports costs the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion per day

It’s not just the shipping companies that the union is hurting -- a shutdown of these ports costs the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion per day; 70 percent of our trade with Asia flows through these ports, according to Reuters.

A shutdown of these ports costs the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion per day

And yet the union and its sympathizers claim there has been little harm done to the U.S. economy by the dispute. On PBS, pro-union economist Christopher Thornberg claimed that it doesn’t mean “much” for consumers and that, “nobody in the United States is being denied any kind of consumption choice as a result of these disruptions.”

In fact, the disruptions have already wreaked havoc on multiple industries.  Honda  recently announced  it was curtailing production at Midwest facilities because the port crisis had squeezed its supply chain -- bad news both for autoworkers (and therefore for the ILWU’s erstwhile brothers-in-arms the United Auto Workers), and auto and auto-parts consumers.

Also being devastated by the ILWU’s intransigence is the California agriculture community. The West Coast ports are the gateway of American produce to the rest of the world, and The New York Times is reporting that California citrus growers have “lost $500 million in export business since November” because containers of fruit sit for days on end on the pier rotting away, as apt a metaphor as you are likely to find for what organized labor does to an economy.

So what’s really going on here?

Merriam-Webster defines a blockade as an act designed “to stop people or supplies from entering or leaving (a port or country).”  Blockades, of course, are traditionally considered acts of war.

Things have gotten so bad that President Obama dispatched  Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to San Francisco this week to try and settle the dispute that threatens the entire national economy.

But organized labor has spent billions to elect Democrats. In fact, what was once a movement dedicated to improving conditions for working Americans long ago morphed into a protection racket for the Democrats:  Unions force workers to pay dues thanks to government-enforced collective bargaining; those dues then get funneled into the oceans of cash that wash liberal politicians into the Halls of Power.

So can we really count on the Obama administration to act as a fair and impartial arbiter in a dispute between organized labor and business? The question answers itself.

More to the point, as the president prepares to confront actual terrorism abroad, is he prepared to confront the economic terrorism perpetrated by his party’s biggest donors?

That question, too, answers itself.

Matt Patterson is the Executive Director for the Center for Worker Freedom, a special project of Americans for Tax Reform. Mpatterson.column@gmail.com