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Published: 22 February 2017      

ILA planning to shutdown East and Gulf Coasts

A date has not yet been fixed, but the ILA is planning a national day of action sometime over the next two weeks as it takes another crack at eliminating the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbour.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) is in the process of planing a national day of protest, which will include a one day strike and a march on Washington. An ILA spokesperson confirmed to WorldCargo News that a date has not yet been set, but the action is planned for some time in the next two weeks and will involve ILA locals on both the Atlantic and the Gulf Coasts.

The news comes just days after the ILA and the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) representing terminal operators and employers held contract discussions in Florida that both described in a joint statement as “productive and fruitful.” With the current contract not due to expire till September 30 2018, there is no real contractual urgency on the sides to meet, and the talks were described as an “opportunity to share, in preliminary talks, issues that are important to both the ILA and employers as we collectively move from these talks to official Wage Scale Negotiations.”

The ILA Master Contract is a very broad document, and issues that affect individual terminals are dealt with in separate local agreements. The ILA in Charleston has recently been engaged in a battle with the South Carolina Port Authority (SCPA) over the way it is implementing new gate technology that includes performing some equipment inspections remotely, among other changes.

ILA Vice President Kenneth Riley, who is also President of the ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, has labelled the SCPA’s actions “government interference”, and linked them with the ILA’s longstanding grievance over the existence of the Waterfront Commission and its oversight of ILA hiring in New York New Jersey. 

The Charleston issue is one the ILA would normally settle locally, but Waterfront Commission is something the ILA actually needs to go to Washington about. The ILA has tried all manner of manoeuvres to get rid of the Waterfront Commission. The judicial route has failed, with the ILA and the New York Shipping Association losing a joint case over way the Waterfront Commission vets hiring on the New York New Jersey Waterfront.

Going through the state legislature has also failed; in 2015 New Jersey Congressmen supported a bill to take New Jersey out of the Waterfront Commission, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill saying “federal law does not permit one state to unilaterally withdraw from a bi-state compact approved by Congress”.

At that time there was evidence the cost and administrative burden oversight by the Waterfront Commission was putting businesses off from setting up on port property. With President Trump now in the Whitehouse and promising to “dramatically reduce federal regulations” on business the ILA probably has its best chance yet in Washington.  

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