International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett said ILA members in the Port of New York and New Jersey are “fed up” with hiring delays he blames on the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
“This thing with the Waterfront Commission is very simple: They’re overstepping their boundaries into areas where they don’t belong, and they know it,” Daggett said in a telephone interview Saturday.
“It’s time for the governor or somebody in the state of New Jersey to step up to the plate and stop them. If they don’t, there’s going to be trouble ahead, and an economic engine for the state is going to stop,” he said.
Daggett would not elaborate, but he repeated his previously expressed view that the Waterfront Commission, a bi-state agency created in 1953 to combat crime on the docks, has outlived its usefulness.
The Waterfront Commission is unique to the Port of New York and New Jersey. Its responsibilities include regulating the size of the longshore work force, conducting criminal background checks, and licensing dockworkers and port businesses.
“They’re trying to run the port and get rid of the ILA,” he said. “We’re about 800 people short on jobs, and they sit on (applicants’ background checks) for months and months. You can become an FBI agent faster than you can get a waterfront pass. The men are fed up.”
The commission has been pushing for more diversity in the port’s dockworker ranks, and has balked at approving job applicants from current ILA members’ friends and families. This has led to a standoff with the ILA and employers that has stalled hiring of mechanics from Local 1804-1, which Daggett headed for years.
Separately from the mechanics’ issue, the ILA and New York Shipping Association have asked the commission to approve the hiring 682 new longshoremen and clerks, including 300 to replace workers scheduled to retire by April under the new six-year contract.
The commission has scheduled hearings for next month on the port’s longshore hiring practices. ILA and NYSA officials are among those who have been called to testify.
Commission officials say the agency’s statutory duties include eliminating favoritism and discrimination in hiring. Daggett said the agency should stick to checking criminal backgrounds of workers referred by the ILA to employers for hiring.
“Somebody needs to tell them to back off,” he said. “If they don’t, the business is going to go to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.”