International Longshoremen’s Association clerks and checkers at the Port of Charleston walked off their jobs on Thursday after refusing assignment to additional duties, union officials said.
“The port’s at a standstill,” said Kenneth Riley, president of ILA Local 1422, representing general longshore workers.
The situation remained fluid late Thursday, and it was unclear how long the walkout would continue. Three ships were in port at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals.
Riley said Local 1422 members supported the clerks’ protest but did not walk out. However, he said longshoremen could not work normally if the clerical workers were not on the job.
ILA clerks and checkers in Local 1771 refused to perform work of non-union “deck and dock men” that stevedores employ to coordinate dockworkers’ activity in moving cargo between ship and shore, Riley said.
In the Port of Savannah, the ILA recently organized several dozen deck and dock workers employed by stevedores after the National Labor Relations Board ruled the workers weren't supervisors and were eligible to unionize.
Charleston stevedores ordered Local 1771 clerks and checkers to perform the deck-and-dock work in the South Carolina port, Riley said. That presumably would have resulted in the dismissal of the non-union workers, he added.
He said the ILA hasn't organized the deck-and-dock workers in Charleston, and that the issue of union representation for them had not come up in negotiations on a local contract between Charleston ILA locals and the South Carolina Stevedores Association.
Although a coastwide master contract has been in place since April for ILA workers along the East and Gulf coasts, supplementary local contracts remain unsettled in several ports, including Charleston.
Billy Adams, president of the South Carolina Stevedores Association, confirmed that the ILA members walked out at 9:40 a.m. Thursday, and but would not comment further.
John Alvaros, president of Local 1771, was not immediately available for comment.