An arbitrator’s ruling that forced striking Baltimore longshoremen back to work on containers and roll-on, roll-off cargo has implications for other East and Gulf Coast ports still negotiating local issues not covered by a coastwide master contract.
Arbitrator M. David Vaughn ruled on Oct. 18 that the three-day walkout by members of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333 violated the no-strike clause of the ILA’s coastwide master contract with United States Maritime Alliance.
“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.
Vaughn ruled that local issues couldn’t be used to justify a strike against cargo covered by the coastwide master contract, which applies to containers and roll-on, roll-off cargo. The master contract was ratified last spring after nearly a year of contentious negotiations.
ILA negotiations with East and Gulf Coast employers are conducted at two levels. The master contract covers container and roll-on, roll-off wages, as well as medical benefits, container royalties and other coastwide issues. Supplementary local contracts cover work rules, pensions and other port-specific issues, including breakbulk work.
Baltimore is one of four ports where supplementary local contracts remain unsetled. Charleston, Philadelphia, and Mobile, Ala., are other ports where the ILA is working under the master contract while local bargaining continues.
Vaughn’s ruling provided assurance to shippers who have worried that disputes over local issues in those ports could lead to a strike against master-contract cargo.
The arbitrator upheld employers’ longstanding position that once the master contract is approved, ratified and put into effect, its no-strike clause can’t be nullified by a dispute over local issues.
Vaughn’s ruling allowed Local 333 members to continue their strike against breakbulk and automobile cargo not covered by the master contract. Baltimore dockworkers have resumed working those cargoes under a 90-day truce while negotiations continue.