International Longshoremen’s Association members ended a brief walkout at the Port of Charleston after employers obtained a temporary restraining order from a federal judge.
Members of ILA Local 1771, representing clerks and checkers, walked off the job at 9:40 a.m. Thursday, interrupting work on three ships at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals.
They returned to work about 7 p.m. after U.S. District Judge David C. Norton issued a back-to-work order sought by the South Carolina Stevedores Association.
Kenneth Riley, president of ILA Local 1422, which represents general longshore workers, said his local was “in solidarity” with the clerks but did not walk out. However, he said longshoremen work in tandem with the clerical workers and could not work normally without them.
Thursday’s dispute arose when Local 1771 members refused to perform work of non-union “deck and dock men” whom stevedores employ to coordinate cargo movement on and off ships.
The ILA recently organized more than 100 deck and dock men employed by stevedores in Savannah after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the workers were not supervisors and were eligible to unionize.
The Savannah workers who voted to join the ILA were added to the rolls of the union’s clerks local in the Georgia port.
The ILA has not organized the deck and dock workers in Charleston. Riley said assigning their jobs to the existing ILA clerks’ work force presumably would eliminate the non-union workers’ jobs and preclude them from eventually joining the ILA.
Local 1771 President John Alvanos said the ILA had raised the issue of bringing the deck and dock workers during local contract negotiations in Charleston as well as in South Atlantic district negotiations.
Alvanos said the ILA was surprised when employers told clerks and checkers on Tuesday that the deck and dock jobs would be added to clerks’ regular duties. He said the additional work was not part of their contract, and that employers did not respond to the union's request to discuss the changes.
“We work under a collective bargaining agreement, not unilateral ones,” Alvanos said.
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, but would not comment further.