How diverse is the longshore work force at the Port of New York and New Jersey? It depends on whom you ask, and on what they’re counting.
The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor contends the International Longshoremen’s Association work force in the port is too heavily white and male, and that the ILA and New York Shipping Association haven’t done enough to attract minorities and women.
Commission officials cite a complaint by the New York Division of Human Rights alleging discriminatory hiring by three predominantly white ILA locals on the New York side of the harbor.
The ILA and NYSA say the human rights division cherry-picked a group of locals whose memberships once reflected their immediate neighborhoods but that have shrunk along with the share of longshore work performed at New York terminals.
More than 80 percent of cargo and work hours now are on the New Jersey side of the harbor. When those terminals are included, the port’s overall work force is more than one-third African-American and Hispanic, according to NYSA statistics.
Minority percentages vary widely among ILA locals. The highest concentration of African-Americans is in the historically black Local 1233 in Newark. Other port locals, notably 1235 in Newark and 1588 in Bayonne, have sizable Hispanic contingents.
Other locals have lower percentages of minorities. The Waterfront Commission said Local 1804-1, representing maintenance-and-repair workers at New Jersey terminals, is less than 2 percent African-American, and that Local 1814 in Brooklyn, a once-vibrant local that’s been shrinking for years, is only 8 percent black.
Angered by the Waterfront Commission’s allegations of discrimination, ILA officials say the commission has failed to practice what it preaches. “We’ll match our diversity against the Waterfront Commission’s any day of the week,” ILA spokesman James McNamara said.
The union’s Facebook page juxtaposed photos of black ILA officials with those of Waterfront Commission leaders described as “pale, male and stale.”
Walter Arsenault, the commission’s executive director, said the ILA was trying to create a smokescreen. “It’s a typical example of the ILA misrepresenting the facts. This is just another attempt by the ILA to divert attention from its record,” he said.
Phoebe Sorial, the commission’s general counsel, said that since the commission underwent a management shakeup five years ago, 11 percent of new hires have been black, 17.5 percent have been Hispanic, 6.5 percent have been Asian and 24 percent have been women.
Sorial said commission executives and directors, who until 2008 were all white, now include two Hispanics, two Asian-Americans, and one Egyptian-American.
She said statistics weren’t immediately available on the overall percentages of minorities and women among the commission staff.