- International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) President Harold Daggett urged East and Gulf Coast workers to abide by their current USMX contract and forego a strike, per a JOC.com report. The statement was made Monday at JOC Events' annual TPM Conference in Long Beach, CA.
- Instead, Daggett has proposed an emergency meeting with Congress, which he believes will aid in resolving the longshoremen's current frustration with both the Port of Charleston and the Port of New Jersey, which ILA members feel is hampering business and withholding jobs from ILA members.
- Fearing the worst, various shipping associations have made their concerns of economic disruption public, sending letters to Trump administration officials, among others.
The announcement temporarily puts an end to shippers' fears of an impending port closure (the date of which would have been unveiled this week) and millions of dollars in economic damage. Yet, the issues that sparked the threat and raised business concerns are far from settled, and ILA workers have shown muscle and determination to make their voices heard.
Union workers announced the potential strike last week, calling for a longshoremen's shutdown of East Coast and Gulf Coast ports and for a march on Washington to protest the issues of over-regulation and job loss due to non-unionized labor and automation. Originally, there was doubt whether the port shutdown was sanctioned by the union, but Daggett's recent statement indicated a recognition of the longshoremen's concerns, if not acceptance of the methods.
Daggett to ILA Members- We hear your anger & and we intend to address it. I will head to DC to seek help for our industry. #TPM2017— Int'l LongshoreAssoc (@ILAUnion) February 27, 2017
"We definitely respect the president and we will wait and hopefully see if they can get this thing properly addressed," Kenneth Riley, vice president and president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, told Supply Chain Dive. "Instead of us going to Washington right now, we will let him and his delegation go and try to accomplish what we had hoped to accomplish."
Riley added that the issues of state intervention on labor issues and using non-unionized labor for work protected by the master contact were the workers' main reasons to organize. "So long as these two issues are properly addressed, we are fine," he said.
However, he said the union had "no intentions of really disrupting the flow of commerce," but meant to protest in Washington with enough people to be heard. "If that means no-one's left to work, well that's fine, but that's not the purpose."
When asked who organized the protest, Riley said it was a bottom-up movement without activism from the union's international leadership. "I was in touch with all the rank and file, presidents up and down the coast," he said, "Not in touch with [the ILA president]." The ILA president's statement at TPM 2017 appears not as capitulation then but a shift in strategy from bottom-up activism to a leadership-led approach.
Yet, Congress's role and legislative bandwidth to address the issue remains in question. While the union workers are protesting overregulation by the part of the states, Congress' role in regulating state port authorities is limited. Similarly, Congress does not appear to have legislation on worker retraining in the pipeline, given an already stacked schedule to address the new administration's policy goals and a budget.
Supply Chain Dive contacted the United States Maritime Alliance to comment on the event, but had not received a response by press time.
Regardless, the week-long episode showed the local chapters' muscle and willingness to bring up labor issues even within the ILA.
"We started talking about this issue in January during the informal meetings with employers, and [the ILA leadership] heard it as well: That we were looking to let our voices be heard, as we always do," Riley added. "When you can't get it done at the table, you take it to the streets."