The New York Shipping Association sued the International Longshoremen's Association and its New York-New Jersey and Philadelphia locals for more than $5 million in damages from a September work stoppage that disrupted the ports for two days.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Newark. It accuses the ILA of engaging in an illegal secondary boycott by inciting New York-New Jersey dockworkers to halt work in support of a protest against the shift of Del Monte fruit imports in the Philadelphia area to a non-ILA terminal in Gloucester City, N.J.
The picketing at New York-New Jersey was aimed at pressuring carriers using Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, operated by the Holt companies, to support the ILA's efforts to retain to retain more than 200 jobs unloading fruit from about 75 ships a year of fruit that Del Monte sends to Philadelphia.
Del Monte had announced it would transfer its ship calls from South Jersey Port's Broadway terminal in Camden, N.J., which employs ILA dockworkers, to Holt's non-ILA Gloucester terminals in Gloucester City, N.J. The Del Monte ships have been calling at Gloucester City for several weeks.
Eighteen carriers joined the New York-New Jersey terminals in seeking damages from the ILA for drawing them into an unrelated dispute in Philadelphia. The work stoppage delayed ship operations and required terminal operators to pay extra overtime to move delayed shipments.
The NYSA said its members suffered damages “totaling upwards of $6 million” from the work stoppage, in addition to legal fees that the lawsuit seeks to recover.
“I said it when the workers walked out in September and I repeat it again,” said NYSA President Joseph Curto. “In today’s environment of port-to-port competition and other significant economic challenges, the job action by the ILA was just plain wrong.
“By seeking relief of the costs incurred by our members, we hope the ILA will understand that it is in everyone’s best interest to work together in our port and not encourage actions that can only hurt us. … The last thing in the world we need is to send a message to our customers and future customers that labor is not dependable in the Port of New York and New Jersey.”
An ILA spokesman said the union was reviewing the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.
Philadelphia ILA locals began complaining last spring about Holt’s operation of a non-ILA terminal in addition to one using ILA labor, the lawsuit said. The locals allegedly urged ILA-contracted carriers at Philadelphia to write to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, threatening to discontinue their calls at Philadelphia.
The lawsuit said James Paylor, the ILA’s top officer in Philadelphia, made a presentation in May to urge the NYSA and its member carriers “to dissuade carriers from calling at (Packer Avenue Marine Terminal) and other facilities in the Port of Philadelphia where employees are not represented by the ILA exclusively.”
In early to mid-September, officers of the New York-New Jersey and Philadelphia ILA locals “agreed and conspired to devise and carry out a plan to direct, assist and finance picketing by members of the Philadelphia ILA locals at marine terminals in the NY-NJ port and to instruct members of the NY-NJ ILA locals to engage in a work stoppage in the NY-NJ port by honoring the Philadelphia members’ picket lines.”
The NYSA submitted a grievance on Sept. 24 objecting to threats of a work stoppage but the ILA failed to attend an arbitration hearing Sept. 27. The next morning, Philadelphia ILA members posted pickets at New York-New Jersey terminals, closing the terminals. The lawsuit said ILA “officers, agents, employees and representatives” urged members to halt work.
The two-day work stoppage ended after the NYSA warned the ILA that it would seek a contempt-of-court order if the union didn’t comply with a federal judge’s temporary restraining order, which affirmed an arbitrator’s ruling that the work stoppage was illegal. On Nov. 1 the court issued a judgment enforcing the arbitrator’s ruling and a permanent injunction against threatening or engaging in another work stoppage related to the dispute.
-- Contact Joseph Bonney at email@example.com.