The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s new executive director said the agency will use its leases as a lever to end “deliberate discrimination” in hiring on the bistate port’s docks.
Patrick Foye, who became executive director Nov. 1, said the port authority will make diversity on the waterfront a priority. He weighed in on the issue during a wide-ranging speech Monday at the annual meeting of the New York Building Congress, an organization of contractors, architects, engineers, unions, and real estate developers, owners and managers, owners.
“I regret having to say it but the docks appear to be one of the last bastions in our region of what can only be characterized as deliberate discrimination or inexcusable inertia with respect to fair and diverse hiring,” Foye said.
“I intend to use every tool at our disposal – including leases with new customers, lease extensions and modifications with our existing customers, and most importantly, conditioning the port’s future investment of billions in the region’s ports on first reaching acceptable, concrete and enforceable diversity hiring plans — not mere symbolic gestures — to make workforces of the ports on both sides of the Hudson look more like our region,” he said.
“The port authority, a public entity, cannot enable racial and gender discrimination or stand quietly as it occurs on our property,” Foye said.
He cited Waterfront Commission statistics that longshore workers in three New York locals are nearly 85 percent white and 90 percent male. “Given the diverse populations of the communities on both sides of the Hudson that host our docks, that’s not acceptable,” he said.
The International Longshoremen’s Association and New York Shipping Association say the Waterfront Commission’s numbers ignore New Jersey, where 80 percent of the port’s cargo is handled. The ILA and NYSA say the port’s overall longshore work force is 25 percent African-American, 13 percent Hispanic and 11 percent female.
The Waterfront Commission has accused the ILA and NYSA of doing too little to make the port’s work force more diverse. The union and its employers defend their record and say the commission is intruding into collective bargaining issues.
The diversity debate comes as the ILA and NYSA prepare to ask New York legislators again this year to revoke the Waterfront Commission’s authority to regulate the size of the longshore workforce. New Jersey lawmakers have already approved companion legislation.