The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and its employers, represented by the New York Shipping Association (NYSA) and Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association, on Friday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, claiming the commission “has gone off the rails to pursue a future role for itself that is well outside the purposes and goals that led to its creation.”
The commission, created in 1953 to fight crime and corruption, is now engaging in “unauthorized and unlawful regulatory activities” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
The complaint can be viewed here.
The Waterfront Commission conducts background investigations on longshoremen and other workers in the port. One of its powers is the ability to control the supply of labor by opening and closing the longshore register, thereby regulating the labor force.
Earlier this year, the ILA reached new contract agreements with employers represented by both the NYSA and Metropolitan Marine.
The contract with the NYSA covers both longshoremen who load and unload cargo from vessels and clerks and checkers who work at terminals. The contract with Metropolitan Marine covers workers who do the maintenance and repair (M&R) on containers, chassis, and container-handling equipment.
The contract with the NYSA included incentives for early retirement of 250 ILA members. The lawsuit also says another 300 workers are needed to replace ILA dockworkers who retired in the eight years before the new contract was signed. In addition, congestion at port terminals this summer was blamed, in part, on seasonal shortage of longshoremen at a time when many take their summer vacations.
In September, the NYSA and ILA said they wanted the Waterfront Commission to open the register and asked to add 532 longshoremen and 150 checkers. It said 51 percent of the new workers would be honorably discharged veterans, 25 percent would be ILA referrals and 24 percent would come from referrals from the NYSA.
The lawsuit said in September the Waterfront Commission amended its rules and regulations so that employers wanting to hire new “A” Register employees — most of whom do M&R work — would have to “certify that the selection of persons so sponsored was made in a fair and nondiscriminatory basis” according to New York, New Jersey and federal law.
Most M&R employees work for Local 1804-1 and Local 1814 in the port. Local 1804-1 was formerly headed by Harold Daggett, the ILA’s international president, and it is now headed up by his son Dennis. Harold Daggett complained that the Waterfront Comission’s “interference with collective is expressly prohibited by the very compact which created them, yet they revise their rules to contradict lawful hiring practices of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) like it is right and just.”
NYSA and the ILA said their complaint seeks to enjoin the commission from what they see as “interference with the industry’s efforts to hire new deep-sea longshoremen and 'A' registrant mechanics.”
John Nardi, the president of the NYSA, said, “At this point, the Waterfront Commission is totally delaying our ability to hire mechanics and clerical workers.”
The Waterfront Commission, in a statement responding to the ILA/NYSA
, said the complaint, “which alleges interference in their collective bargaining process, is actually designed to prevent the commission from fulfilling its mandate to ensure the fair hiring of a diverse workforce in the port.
"Those allegations of improper interference with the collective bargaining process are categorically untrue," it continued. "Over the past sixty years, courts have consistently upheld the commission’s actions when a collective bargaining agreement has violated the letter and spirit of the Waterfront Commission Act.”
The commission said, “ As shown by public hearings, current provisions in the collective bargaining agreements of the ILA, NYSA and Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association (MMMCA) have perpetuated disparate hiring practices, resulting in an incredible lack of diversity in waterfront employment, as well as an income gap among those minorities that are employed there. Indeed, the hiring, training and promotion practices of the industry have led to no/low-work, no/low-show positions generally characterized by outsized salaries provided to a privileged class. Those with such positions are overwhelmingly given to white males connected to organized crime figures or union leadership.”