The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has scheduled a series of public hearings to highlight what commission official contend are discriminatory hiring practices for longshore workers in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The commission resolution authorizing the public hearings said they are being held “to determine the appropriate manner for the recruitment, referral, selection, hiring and training” of dockworkers.
The hearings are scheduled for Nov. 14, 18, and 25 at the commission’s headquarters in Manhattan. Officials from the International Longshoremen’s Association and New York Shipping Association are expected to testify.
The comission has been jousting with the ILA and NYSA for more than two years over procedures for hiring dockworkers at the port. Commission officials say job candidates referred by the industry are overwhelmingly white and male.
The New York Division of Human Rights filed a discrimination complaint last year against the NYSA and ILA.
NYSA and ILA officials have insisted their hiring practices are fair, and that the overall port workforce roughly reflects the New York metropolitan population.
The ILA and NYSA had no immediate comment on the commission's planned hearings.
Disagreements over dockworker hiring practices flared up after the NYSA and ILA last month asked the commission to authorize 682 new hires — 532 longshoremen and 150 clerks and checkers.
About 300 of those hires will replace workers who have applied for early retirements with enhanced pensions under the new six-year labor contract between the ILA and NYSA. The others represent an expansion of the port workforce, the size of which is regulated by the Waterfront Commission.
About 3,250 port workers are covered by the ILA-NYSA contract. Terminals employ about 1,000 additional workers under a separate contract between the ILA and the Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association.
Industry and commission officials agree that additional workers are needed to avoid a repeat of the port’s operational fiasco last summer.
Labor shortages caused by longshoremen’s summer vacations combined with technology glitches and construction at terminals to cause delays that slowed cargo deliveries anc produced miles-long lines of trucks.
After the Waterfront Commission criticized industry hiring practices at the port, the ILA and NYSA came up with a plan under which 51 percent of job referrals would be for military veterans, 25 percent would be referred by the ILA, and 24 percent would be referred by the NYSA.
Arsenault said that of the 97 veterans referred to the commission for vetting so far, 10 “were less than honorable discharged,” and that some of the veterans’ organizations that supposedly provided referrals “said they had never heard of the ILA and NYSA.”
He said the applicants included a barmaid at a longshoremen’s hangout who had served six months in the New Jersey National Guard and several retired police officers and firemen who were seeking part-time jobs to supplement their pensions.
Arsenault said bringing on part-timers was “ridiculous,” in view of labor shortages such as those that afflicted the port last summer.