The new International Longshoremen’s Association master contract includes a clause designed to encourage state port authorities in the South Atlantic to staff any new terminals with ILA labor instead of state employees.
State-owned ports in Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington, N.C., have long hired their own workers for jobs that the ILA performs in other ports. The port authorities have ignored union requests to discuss possible ILA jurisdiction over those jobs.
ILA-employer contracts since the 1990s have included a provision for a joint committee to seek discussions with the ports on ILA staffing. The new ILA-USMX coastwide contract up for ratification April 9 takes a different tack.
The contract calls for an ILA-USMX study to determine how the ports’ business models could be altered to permit ILA-represented employees to do the work “in a more productive, efficient and competitive fashion.”
The ILA and USMX plan to request a meeting with the state port authorities by July 1 to discuss the study. USMX then would formally advise the ports that if they develop new terminals, USMX member carriers may be prohibited from using them unless they employ ILA labor.
How such a prohibition would play out is unclear. The port authorities have shown no interest in changing their current labor practices. If the ILA and employers decide to press the issue, it is likely to result in litigation.