THOMAS W. GLEASON, the 85-year-old president of the International Longshoremen's Association, has come in for some strong criticism by the shippers and carriers.
They believe Mr. Gleason went back on his word. During the negotiations for the new three-year contract between the ILA and carriers serving the North Atlantic and Gulf ports,Mr. Gleason on more than one occasion promised a 60- day notice before sending his members out on strike. But when the contract expired Oct. 1 at 12:30 a.m., his membership put picket lines around 17 U.S. North Atlantic ports without the 60-day notice.Three days later, Mr. Gleason called off his pickets. The Council of North Atlantic Shipping Associations blinked and agreed to a 45-day extension of the existing contract.
But how angry were the shippers and carriers with Mr. Gleason? Angry enough that on the night of Oct. 1, Hercules Inc.'s manager of transportation export services, James A. Satterfield, got out of bed (he couldn't sleep) and wrote the following ditty in honor of the grand leader of the ILA:
THE WISE MAN exhorted in my ear,
''Don't divert your cargo. Never fear.
I promise notice of 60 days
Before entering a striking phase."
We built no stock. HE gave HIS word.
Wasn't I the naive bird!
At the stroke of twelve, the deed was done.
HE'd lulled us into another one.
On the third day, HE spoke again,
''Let the work begin from Virginia to Maine."
If a 60-day pledge went all to hell,
Forty-five days could go easily as well.
Before HE completely breaks our backs,
Let's look to Montreal, St. Johns, and Halifax.
Am I miffed? Oh, very, very!
HE deserves a big Raspberry.
Part of the problem was miscommunications. In defense of Mr. Gleason, although he said he would give 60 days' notice before ordering a strike, he assumed that once the existing contract expired it would be extended. Conasa initially wouldn't agree to that. Employers in the South Atlantic and Gulf ports had already obtained a reduction in wages by the ILA for breakbulk work. An extension, from Conasa's point of view, would merely encourage Mr. Gleason into protracted negotiations.
It was all an unfortunate misunderstanding . . . and a costly one, both to Mr. Gleason and the industry.