The Faces of the ILA Strike

A colleague and I went out to Port Newark midday Wednesday to see firsthand what was going as striking longshoremen walked a picket line, and it was interesting to see the difference in moods between the two terminals we visited.

One of the larger picket lines — about 35 people — was formed in front of the Maher terminal, where the workers were “well received,” said John Visniskie, a Del Monte employee of 22 years and one of the picketers from the Port of Philadelphia. John and a few other men stood out in front of the longshoremen, along the sidewalk of the terminal, wearing Phillies baseball caps, T-shirts and fluorescent colored reflective vests, holding signs that read, “Holt took my job” and “Holt destroyed my family.” The men seemed tired but determined.

Visniskie had arrived in Newark that morning at the Maher terminal, was very pleased with the terminal’s treatment of the picketers. “They treat us great, fed us, made sure we were comfortable,” Visniskie said of Maher. “We’ve had better reception here than in Philadelphia.”

Behind him, small groups of workers gathered around the perimeter of the terminal’s entrance. Some sat in lawn chairs drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee as others leaned against cars and vans in the hot sun … a welcome change from the previous day’s rain.

The strikers didn’t seem to mind the press being there, although most preferred not to be photographed and left the talking up to Visniskie.

ILA workers join informational picket lines at Port Newark.

“Thank God we have these sister and brotherhoods,” he said. “New York is a strong union town and we need to stay unified.”

The mood and atmosphere were noticeably different a mile-and-a-half down the road at the APM terminal. APM security guards and Port Authority police officers stood guard to the entrance of the terminal’s visitor parking lot where a few dozen port workers passed the time playing soccer and football. A coffee truck close by offered snacks and drinks.

My colleague David and I approached several men standing behind yellow police tape right behind the sidewalk. One of these was Gus Rosanio of ILA 1242 out of the Port of Philadelphia. As I began to interview him on the sidewalk, a terminal security guard approached, asked me for ID and told me I was on private property. Politely but firmly, he asked me to stand in the street if I wanted to interview the picketers. A few moments later, a police officer came by. After speaking privately with the security guards, he told me it was fine for me to stand on the sidewalk for an interview.

“You can see what we’ve been dealing with,” Rosanio told me.

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