A West Coast dockworkers' strike was averted last month when management and labor agreed to a generous new contract for employees. Now longshoremen on the East Coast are threatening a strike of their own if they don't get the same pay raise.
That was to be expected; union workers doing similar jobs traditionally have insisted on similar pay. But East Coast ports have been losing market share to West Coast ports over the years; if they can keep their costs - including wages - below those of West Coast ports, they stand a chance of recapturing some business. So far, East Coast longshoremen aren't buying the ''let's increase the size of the pie'' argument. They should at least consider it. Demanding higher wages at the cost of more business and jobs is a risky proposition for unions and companies.