The International Longshoremen’s Association may have to take on the U.S. Marines to protect its jurisdiction in the Southeast.
ILA President Harold Daggett said the Marines intend to have workers represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Seafarers International Union unload ammunition from a vessel that will call at the Port of Charleston this summer.
Daggett, a guest speaker at the 35th convention of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Coronado, Calif., said his East Coast union has traditionally performed that work. Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, added that his members have been specially trained to handle this dangerous cargo.
Riley said the operating engineers and SIU members would actually live on the vessel while it is transporting the ammunition from Jacksonville, Fla., to Charleston, and would then unload the cargo at the South Carolina port.
“We have a contract to do this work. This is very concerning to us,” he said. The ILA is working with its military consultants in Washington in an attempt to head off the loss of its traditional work, Riley said.
Daggett cited the military shipment as one of several recent incidents that point to the need for the ILA and ILWU to collaborate in the formation of a maritime labor alliance that would protect dockworker jurisdiction from encroachment by non-maritime unions.
He said the word longshoremen by definition means “men along the shore,” or traditional dockworkers. “It does not mean operating engineers or seafarers along the shore,” he said.
It is clear that the Operating Engineers workers will be doing the actual loading of the ammunition in Charleston. An SIU spokesman nevertheless emphasized there “simply is no truth whatsoever” to any claim that its members will unload the cargo.