International Longshoremen’s Association workers agreed Friday to return to work for 90 days while negotiators work on a local contract that triggered a three-day strike this week at the Port of Baltimore.
The halt to the strike came after an arbitrator ruled that ILA Local 333’s walkout over a local contract violated the no-strike clause in the union’s coastwide master contract with United States Maritime Alliance.
Dockworkers resumed working cargo covered by the coastwide master contract at Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals after the arbitrator M. David Vaughn granted the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore’s request for a cease-and-desist order.
“The evidence persuades me that Local 333 violated its obligations under the master contract by striking against the performance of work covered under the master contract,” Arbitrator M. David Vaughn wrote in a decision.
Employers and the ILA had been watching the arbitration proceedings closely because of possible implications for how the master contract’s no-strike clause might be interpreted in future disputes over local contract issues.
Vaughn’s ruling did not cover automobiles or breakbulk cargoes such as forest products, which are not part of the coastwide agreement. However, the union agreed to resume normal work on all cargoes for 90 days while negotiations continue.
Longshoremen worked a cruise ship Thursday at Baltimore. Cruise operators are not parties to the coastwide contract between the ILA and USMX, the umbrella group for East and Gulf Coast employers.
The master contract covers container and roll-on, roll-off wages, as well as medical benefits, container royalties and other coastwide issues. Local contracts cover work rules, pensions and other port-specific issues, including breakbulk work.
The local contract between Local 333 and the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, a USMX member, is one of numerous East and Gulf Coast local agreements that supplement the coastwide master contract.
Local 333 members struck Wednesday after voting 517-25 against the last proposal from the Steamship Trade Association. The port’s other ILA locals have agreed to their contracts but refused to cross Local 333’s picket lines.
Other East and Gulf Coast ports where ILA workers are employed are continuing normal operations.
Baltimore was one of several ports where local negotiations continued after the master contract was settled. ILA members at the Port of Virginia ratified their local contract on Aug. 30 after voting down two previous proposals.
The master contract was signed last spring after nearly a year of contentious negotiations that included threats of a coastwide strike.
In his arbitration ruling, Vaughn said Local 333’s violations of the master contract’s no-strike clause were causing “substantial and potentially irreparable harm and injury to (Steamship Trade Association) members and customers and are causing losses of revenues and customer goodwill and have jeopardized future business at the port.”
Vaughn prohibited Local 333 from picketing at gates designated for master contract cargo, and ordered the union and Steamship Trade Association to allow unfettered access “to people and work covered by the master contract without the necessity for them to cross any picket line.”