East Coast and Gulf Ports Shut Down Threats in the Air

Posted on February 24, 2017

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) met in Delray Beach, Florida on February 15 and 16 for an informal conference to provide an opportunity for both sides to share issues of importance to them in advance of the current contract expiring on September 30, 2018. A wide range of ILA grievances were discussed and some veered beyond contract bargaining. Several ILA union officials proposed a one-day stoppage along the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, and a march in Washington D.C., to bring attention to the ILA’s longstanding complaints regarding state-level “government interference.”

The complaints revolve around two issues. The first is the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which is a unique bistate agency, between New York and New Jersey, created in 1953 to crack down on racketeering, which is now seen by the ILA as an unnecessary governmental agency that prevents the ILA from hiring enough workers at the port. The second issue is with the use of state employees at state operated ports in the Carolinas and Georgia. ILA negotiated contract language encourages state-run ports to hire ILA workers for port jobs, such as crane operators, however, the ports in the Carolinas and Georgia have ignored this request. This takes on more urgency as the South Carolina Ports Authority are planning to open a new container terminal in 2019.

The one-day stoppage has not been scheduled, but it is a significant cause of concern for many US importers and exporters who fear it can have negative impacts on their companies and potentially leave a lasting impact on the US economy, particularly for US agricultural exporters. Many US agricultural exporters face significant foreign competition and can’t afford to be seen an unreliable suppliers. Others fear a stoppage will counter the progress the ILA and USMX have made thus far which has been characterized as “productive and fruitful.”

ILA officials said they will not schedule the stoppage until they speak to more union members and industry stakeholders, but insist it is “inevitable.” The USMX warned that the current contract “forbids any unilateral work stoppage by the ILA for any reason.” Undoubtedly, this has many concerned parties monitoring the situation closely.

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Bonney, J. (2017, February 16).  ILA, USMX aim to beat deadline for new contract.  Retrieved February 24, 2017 from http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshoremen%E2%80%99s-association/ila-usmx-aim-beat-deadline-new-contract_20170216.html

Bonney, J. (2017, February 23). US importers, exporters urge ILA to avoid shutdown. Retrieved February 24, 2017 from http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshoremen%E2%80%99s-association/us-ag-exporters-ask-chao-help-prevent-ila-work-stoppage_20170223.html