Two New Jersey legislators are seeking to limit the ability of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor from regulating the supply of labor
in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
"The Waterfront Commission was created in the early 1950s to perform
background checks and eliminate the presence of organized crime in the
ports. It also has veto authority over the actual number of new hires," said a press release from New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio and Assemblyman Scott Rumana, both Republicans.
Complaining about "red tape holding up job creation," the two said the Waterfront Commission "has delayed the port of New Jersey from filling 600 vitally needed jobs."
Phoebe S. Sorial, general counsel at the commission, called the press release "regrettable and demonstrably false. While they purportedly questioned
the reason for the delay, they inexplicably did not make any attempt to
contact the commission to ascertain the true facts prior to issuing
their statement. Instead, they apparently relied on the
misrepresentations of the New York Shipping Association, Inc., (NYSA) and
the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO, (ILA) which, over
the past several months, have been forced to retract similar false
accusations of delay in hiring that they made to the Port Authority of
New York & New Jersey, the press and even a Federal District Court
Sorial continued, "The Waterfront Commission is dedicated to putting people to work in
the port in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner, as quickly as
possible." She said letters and emails between the commission and the NYSA
demonstrate "the commission has not
been the source of any labor shortages or slowdowns in the port. To the
contrary, we have openly criticized the glacial pace at which the NYSA
is moving with regard to getting longshoremen sponsored and working in
the port," Sorial said.
She said, "Since the enactment of the Waterfront
Commission Act in 1953, the NYSA and ILA — disgruntled by its limiting
effect on their perceived absolute collective bargaining rights to
engage in conduct that promotes discriminatory hiring practices — have
challenged virtually every attempt by the commission to ensure that they
abide by the spirit and the letter of the act. Most recently, they
have filed a lawsuit challenging the commission’s requirement that the
industry implement a hiring plan that will result in individuals being
hired in a fair and non-discriminatory basis in accordance with state
and federal laws — as is required of all other employers."
For his part, Pennacchio doesn't see the point of holding up the hiring process. “Even though management and labor have both agreed that additional staffing is needed, it still must go through a third party just to get approval for those numbers. What other business has to subordinate themselves to a third party when dealing with hiring practices?” he asked.
The Congressman said in 2007, the New Jersey Legislature passed Public Law 2007, Chapter 167, which would eliminate the Waterfront Commission's veto power over the number of new hires. In order for the change to take affect, the State of New York must enact similar legislation. To date, New York has not done so.
Today, the two legislators said they will introduce joint resolutions encouraging the New York Legislature to pass similar legislation.
“It is my understanding that well over 90 percent of the traffic at the
ports of New York/New Jersey occur in New Jersey. I question the need
for a bi-state authority to regulate New Jersey commerce in the first
place,” said Pennacchio.
Sorial said the joint resolutions "would not only threaten the job security of those working in the port, but would also end the commission’s ability to require port employers to hire in a non-discriminatory manner."