On the waterfront
Shipping industry watches New York docks for clues on whether labor harmony will continue.
The International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents terminal operators, stevedores and steamship lines that employ ILA members, are not expected to begin negotiating a new contract until perhaps late 2011.
That’s far in advance of the current labor agreement that expires on Sept. 30, 2012. But by the end of 2010 there was already some concern about continued labor harmony on the East and Gulf coasts because of activity in New York.
A brief ILA wildcat strike in New York and Philadelphia was staged in September 2010, resulting in a lawsuit against the union by the New York Shipping Association (NYSA) in December.
In October another group of employers filed an unfair labor charge against a local headed by one of the ILA’s most outspoken leaders, Harold J. Daggett, executive vice president and president of Local 1804-1, whose members do maintenance and repair (M&R) of containers and chassis. Daggett has been mentioned as a possible successor to the current ILA President Richard Hughes.
And while both labor and management are bristling at a probe by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor into what it calls ‘no work/no show’ jobs at terminals, the issues raised during the commission’s hearings may wind up on the bargaining table when contract talks start.
|‘There may be some change in the leadership and there may be some change in direction occurring ‘ I think we are going to be living a new ballgame here as time goes on.’|
New York Shipping Association
New York ‘is where the ILA lives. This is their base,’ said Joseph Curto, president of NYSA, which also negotiates local labor issues with the ILA on behalf of terminal operators, stevedores and steamship companies.
Testifying during hearings at the Waterfront Commission this fall he noted ‘we have more ILA jobs than any other port.’ The ILA has about 4,000 employees working in New York.
The ILA says it has 65,000 members, though all are not deep-sea longshoremen ‘ less then 10,000 cast ballots when the union voted to extend the contract with USMX.
Curto noted other ports use more non-ILA workers in port operations:
‘ In Philadelphia, members of the International Association of Machinists, not the ILA, do M&R.
‘ In Virginia, there are back office clerical workers who are non-union.
‘ In Savannah and Charleston, there are non-ILA operators of gantry cranes, yard equipment and gate system.
Different ILA. Addressing the Port Industry Day conference for the Port of New York and New Jersey, Curto said, ‘I think what we are seeing is maybe a different type of ILA. We have had excellent relations with the ILA in the past.
‘There may be some change in the leadership and there may be some change in direction occurring,’ he added. ‘We need to watch what is happening there and adjust our strategies somewhat. I think we are going to be living a new ballgame here as time goes on.’
Curto made his remarks after ILA members in New York refused to cross picket lines thrown up by Philadelphia-area ILA members. Longshoremen there were protesting Fresh Del Monte Produce’s decision to move an operation that handles imported bananas and other produce on the Delaware River from a pier in Camden, N.J., that employed ILA members, to a facility in Gloucester City, that employs members of the Teamsters and Machinists.
Even when the protest was in the rumor stage, NYSA obtained an order from an arbitrator saying a sympathy strike would violate the National Labor Relations Act. But the strike happened anyway, even after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order. After the NYSA threatened to commence contempt proceedings during the second day of the strike, ILA members returned to work.
In December, NYSA and its members said they had collectively suffered more than $6 million in damages and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Newark against the ILA.
In 2009, USMX and NYSA reached agreements to extend their ILA contracts through September 2012. Another employer group in New York, the Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractor’s Association, thought it had reached a similar deal for a two-year extension after Dec. 31, 2010 with Daggett’s Local 1804-1, which represents M&R workers and lashers, who secure containers to ships.
But J. Randolph Brown, president of Metropolitan Marine, said last spring the local refused to execute a memorandum of agreement or bargain in good faith because of a disagreement. So in October it filed a charge with the NLRB alleging an unfair labor practice.
In early December, employers were hopeful the NLRB would rule there was a deal between the union and employers, or that a new agreement would be reached. There was also the possibility an impass could shut down the port.
The disagreement between 1804-1 involved lashers, but Daggett has been outspoken in his concern that ILA members continue to maintain chassis even as many steamship lines have announced in the past year plans to divest themselves of their chassis fleets.
‘We have had no discussions with 1804 on the chassis issue,’ Brown said.
Carriers have said they want truckers to supply their own chassis when picking up containers at the port. But sources said while it’s more common for non-union or non-ILA mechanics to do M&R work in other ports, the ILA is dominant in the greater New York area and that is unlikely to change.
Jim Devine, president of Global Container Terminals USA, which runs both Global Container Terminal in Jersey City, and Bayonne and New York Container Terminal on Staten Island, said that while he thinks demands for increased staffing by lashers is unnecessary and would significantly raise the cost of moving cargo through New York, he believes Daggett ‘has a legitimate issue’ when it comes to chassis maintenance in the New York area.
‘That is the domain of the ILA. It has been since time immemorial. I don’t know that it is the interest of our industry to pull chassis totally away from the waterfront. It’s going to negatively impact the truckers and obviously it is going to negatively impact the ILA.
‘I can fully understand the steamship lines wanting to walk away from the chassis, because they are not adequately compensated for it. But the solution is not to abandon the M&R of chassis to the truckers who are not well set up to do it, but for land to be made available in the case of New York ‘ and there are pool operators who set up operations in close proximity to the terminals and the chassis maintenance stays under the control of the ILA.’
James Capo, chief executive of USMX, said ILA’s control of chassis and container M&R is a mixed bag in some ports to the south, particularly in so-called ‘right to work’ states and at locations far from the docks.
ILA does M&R work in Baltimore and Norfolk, and Capo said there is a separate South Atlantic maintenance agreement with the ILA in the ports of Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla. There is yet another agreement for M&R workers in South Florida.
‘A lot of the work in the South is done by vendors who are not members of USMX, but they employ ILA members and agree to be bound by the terms of the contract,’ he said.
On The Clock. Meanwhile, in a series of hearings this fall, the Waterfront Commission has highlighted outsized salaries being paid to some ILA members such as timekeepers and shop stewards in the Port of New York and New Jersey, some being paid 24 hours, even 25 hours a day, seven days a week because of union rules that result in their receiving a salary whenever members of a local are working, even if they are home.
Ronald Goldstock, one of the agency’s commissioners said ‘most of the timekeepers in the Port of New York, each with generous salaries, have organized crime family connections or are related to union officials,’ and that the ‘the three largest stevedores in Port Newark-Elizabeth each have a shop steward who was a nephew or son-in-law of Vincent Gigante’ ‘ the late boss of the Genovese crime family.
|‘A lot of people would like to have these jobs, only certain people seem to have the right connection.’|
Waterfront commission of Nre York Harbor
Daggett ‘ who himself was once indicted by the federal government with the help of the Waterfront Commission, then acquitted of all charges ‘ was unapologetic about the high salaries that some ILA member make, saying he wished more of his members could make such high salaries.
He complained about individuals being smeared because of relatives or friends who may have criminal backgrounds, and he noted every waterfront worker must be screened and licensed by the Waterfront Commission and that the ILA has two ethical practice judges.
‘A lot of people would like to have these jobs, only certain people seem to have the right connections,’ Goldstock said.
Walter Arsenault, executive director of the Waterfront Commission, said the Taft-Hartley Act ‘forbids employers from giving anything of value to a union representative representing employees,’ and asked terminal operators ‘how that squared with paying employees around the clock.’
Curto explained that some of the practices, such as paying workers around the clock, are the result of ‘custom and practice,’ are likely to be discussed in coming negotiations. But, ‘whether or not they become the central issues, I can’t say.’
‘The waterfront commission is highlighting facts and practices that we have known for some time,’ he said. ‘At one time, both sides, employers and the union, could justify certain things. Now, as you unpeel the onion and see things that don’t make sense are probably not sustainable. And some of these things that have been brought to the public’s attention by the commission don’t make sense and need to be changed, but the method of change is the collective bargaining process. Management can’t just unilaterally stop a work process that has been in place for 50 years.’
Devine said he ‘doesn’t like the waterfront commission maligning in a blanket fashion terminal operators or longshore people as criminals. I took particular exception to the fact to the basic innuendo that because we have a shop steward or timekeeper that is paid $340,000, that is a result of either intimidation or criminal activity.’
But he said if individuals linked to organized crime families hold key positions at terminals ‘you can understand where they are trying to get to. But I think they need to use a scalpel and not a meat ax. But what I get frustrated about is walking out on my terminal and seeing a lot of honest longshore people. They tell me’a neighbor, or in some cases their child, will walk up to them and ask if they are a criminal.’
The Waterfront Commission hearings come at a time when the agency is reinvigorating itself after being sharply criticized in 2009 by New York State’s inspector general as being corrupt and suffering a ‘total agency breakdown.’
Goldstock and Arsenault, both newcomers to the commission, said there has been about a 20 percent to 25 percent turnover in staff, and that it is now performing many of the functions it was supposed to do, but never did in the past.
Goldstock also said the agency has rededicated itself, not to fight crime and corruption, but to ‘make its workforce more diverse, make its work more equitable, but also to increase the port’s competitiveness.’
For example, they are proposing that a diverse pool of potential longshoremen be prequalified that stevedoring companies would then be able to hire from.
The agency said it would investigate and grant licenses to each of the businesses operating on the waterfront to see if they have ‘good character and integrity.’ For decades, the commission has routinely granted temporary licenses to businesses year after year without comprehensive investigations.
As part of that process, it proposed that it might allow businesses it finds unacceptable to continue to operate under the watch of an independent private sector inspector general, a technique that it said has become a ‘standard law enforcement practice.’ That has resulted in a federal lawsuit from NYSA seeking an injunction against the commission, saying it does not have the authority to set up an IPSIG program.
‘NYSA members are not criminals, but legitimate business entities that are already overregulated,’ said Curto, testifying before a New Jersey Senate Committee.
Raymond Lesniak, the committee’s chairman, has called for having the Waterfront Commission’s duties be assumed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.