ILA Members Launch Economic Protest in Washington

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Published Feb 21, 2017 11:48 AM by The Maritime Executive

“It’s up to the Congress to save our nation’s ports. We can’t do it alone,” say ILA rank and file members.

Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), from Maine to Texas are calling for a shutdown of ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and a march on Washington to protest job loss and the resulting negative impacts on America’s economy.

The planned daylong protest in Washington will highlight hiring practices in some of the nation’s ports that purposely reduce the numbers of dockworkers, causing immeasurable damage to the nation’s economy. Specifically, interference by the South Carolina Port Authority has reduced the number of dockworkers, injuring not only the port itself, but also the local and national economy. Also, blamed for job loss and economic injury is the federally permitted Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. ILA rank and file members maintain that the Waterfront Commission is responsible for damaging the regional economy of the Port of New York and New Jersey, one of the nation’s largest and economically sensitive areas for the receipt and shipment of goods, by causing hundreds of jobs at the port to remained unfilled.

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a bi-state entity created in 1953, requires congressional approval to operate because it is an interstate compact. The commission’s self-created system of background checks for all that work on the now largely mechanized waterfront is resulting in job shortages throughout the Port of New York and New Jersey and damaging the U.S. economy.

According to a report last week in the “Journal of Commerce”, ILA members used the recent informal contract talks meetings with United States Maritime Alliance, LTD., held in Florida, to slam agencies like the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.  Every port region from Maine to Texas expressed full solidarity with the ILA against the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the South Carolina State Port Authority during these meetings.

“Today’s Longshore Workers are skilled craftsmen,” said Kenneth Riley, ILA Vice President and President of ILA Local 1422, in Charleston, South Carolina, “who operate expensive and dangerous equipment. The work of these dedicated professionals is responsible for much of America’s economic wealth.”

“We are protesting,” said Riley, “damage to the nation’s economy that is caused by the kind of interference that President Trump promised to stop.”

Riley added, “The Port of New York and New Jersey is regulated not only by the Waterfront Commission but also by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This overregulation is damaging to one of the nation’s busiest ports, and thus hundreds of local businesses that depend upon the port to survive, by reducing the number of dock workers and therefore the amount of cargo that could be moved.”

ILA members are also protesting a similar condition in South Carolina where overregulation and governmental interference are killing jobs and reducing the value of economic activity at the ports. The South Carolina State Port Authority uses non-ILA members to operate cranes, receive and deliver cargo, and perform other terminal work. This kind of government interference is causing, said Riley, “unemployment, unskilled and unsafe dock labor, and injury to the coastal economy.”

The Washington protest by Longshoremen is expected to bring much of America’s port economy to a halt.

“We will wake up the decision makers and force them to focus on our ports,” said Riley. “If we don’t stop the destruction caused by overreaching bureaucracies, America will pay an even bigger price.”

“South Carolina and New York port operations create, keep, and protect American jobs. We are asking President Trump to help our members keep working, that more are put to work, and to ensure that American jobs are protected.

Riley added that this anger resulting in a national protest is coming from the people who do the work, day to day working Longshoremen, who want to protect the jobs of people just like them throughout the nation.

“We all know that if working conditions decline, and jobs are lost in New York, that people like us will be in trouble throughout the country,” said Riley.

He added that Longshoremen collective bargaining agreements in New York set the standard for the nation and have consistently increased wages, benefits, and the generalized standard of living for every working Longshoreman.

“It’s really simple,” said Riley. “You hurt New York, you interfere with hiring, and you’ll start the destruction of every gain made by every Longshoreman in the United States.  That’s how Longshoremen throughout the country feel and they're angry about it. “

“ILA members,” Riley continued. “Keep America’s economy going. These quasi-law enforcement regulatory agencies at two of the nation’s most critical ports are hurting our national economy, taking jobs away from this country , making it impossible for corporations to function, and are dangerous.”

ILA members in New York and New Jersey expressed concerns that potential companies shied away from starting businesses at the New York-New Jersey waterfront because of the interference and harassment of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

Two years ago, New Jersey State Senators voted unanimously, 75-0, to eliminate the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bi-partisan measure.

“These agencies use regulating crime as an excuse,” Riley went on. “The real crime here is injuring the American economy, hurting people who work for a living, making America less competitive and destroying the local businesses around our ports and harbor facilities.”

At the Port of New York and New Jersey alone, ILA members process over $200 million worth of goods annually, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the region. The port processes over 70,000 metric tons of cargo and commodities ranging from apparel and furniture to mineral fuel, iron and steel.

“The failure to put more people to work hurts our competitive capacity and the world economy. We are going to lose this battle unless the federal government acts,” said Riley.

Date to be announced next week.

“What we’re experiencing is not some fifty year old movie. Today’s waterfronts are mechanized, dangerous environments where jobs go to decent working people regardless of ethnicity or race. The crime we’re talking about is the continued, constant rippling away of power of America’s economic engine, our ports and our port workers.” said Kenneth Riley. “All we want to do is work, build this economy, and keep the nation strong, but over regulating agencies, enabled by the federal government want something else, and that’s just not right for America.”

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