A stevedoring company that plans to use workers from the Operating Engineers union to load military ammunition at Charleston said it is not competing for work currently done by International Longshoremen’s Association labor.
ILA President Harold Daggett and Ken Riley, president of Local 1422 in Charleston, have criticized other unions, including the Seafarers International Union and International Union of Operating Engineers, for performing traditional longshore work.
Daggett cited the Marine cargo during a speech this week at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union convention in Coronado, Calif., where he urged the ILA and ILWU to cooperate to protect their work jurisdictions.
Riley, who also was at the ILWU convention, said the ILA had a contract to handle the Marine cargo. “This is very concerning to us,” Riley said. He added that the ILA is working with its military consultants in Washington to try to secure the ammunition loading work.
Chris May, vice president of Portus Stevedoring in Jacksonville, Fla., said his company has contracted with the Marines to handle their cargo at Jacksonville since 2005. He said the contract allows the company to follow the ship to Charleston.
The Marines plan to use Portus to load a large quantity of palletized ammunition on a prepositioning ship at Charleston after the company stows regular cargo on the vessel at Jacksonville.
Portus was established 20 years ago and has two stevedoring subsidiaries. One employs Seafarers International Union labor to load and unload Sea Star Lines ships at Jacksonville. The other employs Operating Engineers labor for other customers, including the Marines and Army.
May said the Army has a contract with an ILA stevedore at Charleston, but the Marines don’t regularly use Charleston and have no stevedoring contract there. He said the Marines opted to load the ammunition at a Navy facility in Charleston where the loading does not conflict with commercial activity.
“Neither our company nor the SIU or the Operating Engineers are going after work that is done by an ILA stevedore,” he said. “We’re working under our contract with the Marines, and we’re not working in a place where there are conflicts with past port practice or jurisdiction.”