The International Longshoremen’s Association plans to picket at Charleston, S.C., and at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington next Monday to protest a stevedore’s use of non-ILA labor to load military ammunition.
The ILA has been complaining for months about the hiring of International Union of Operating Engineers labor from Jacksonville, Fla., to load ammunition onto prepositioning ships for the Marines at the Naval Weapons Station in North Charleston.
Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston and of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, contends the work should be handled by the ILA, which normally handles military shipments at the port.
The ILA's Web site, ilaunion.org, called for dockworkers to rally outside the Marine barracks in Washington. Dockworkers also plan to picket outside the North Charleston weapons base when the USNS Lewis & Clark begins loading ammunition there Monday morning.
The operating engineers are hired by Portus Stevedoring, which has handled the Marines’ shipments at Jacksonville since 2005.
Portus says its contract with the Marines allows the company to follow the ship to Charleston to pick up ammunition after the vessel is loaded with other cargo at Jacksonville. The Marines prefer to load ammunition at the naval facility in North Charleston because it offers ample space and no conflict with commercial operations.
Chris May, vice president of Portus, has said his company isn’t taking work previously done by the ILA. After the issue flared up two months ago, he told The Journal of Commerce 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.
The Charleston Post & Courier quoted Travis Simmons, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 673 in Jacksonville, as saying it would refuse to cross ILA picket lines. Simmons could not immediately be reached for comment.