A federal arbitrator has ordered an International Longshoremen’s Association local in Baltimore to pay ocean carriers $3.8 million for an October strike that violated a no-strike clause in the ILA’s coastwide master contract.
Local 333 struck for three days in mid-October 2013 after a breakdown in local contract negotiations with the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore. The local contract covers autos and breakbulk cargoes, along with pensions and port-specific work rules.
Arbitrator M. David Vaughn ruled the walkout violated the no-strike clause in the ILA’s coastwide master contract with United States Maritime Alliance. The master contract, signed last April, covers container and roll-on, roll-off cargo.
The Baltimore case has been watched closely by the ILA and East and Gulf Coast employers because of its implications for how the master contract’s no-strike clause might be interpreted in future disputes over local issues.
The ILA’s coastwide master contract traditionally has been settled before completion of local contract negotiations, some of which drag on for months or even years.
Vaughn’s Oct. 18, 2013, ruling said Local 333 “violated its obligations under the master contract by striking against the performance of work covered under the master agreement,” and caused “substantial and potentially irreparable harm and injury” to employers and customers.
At least one container ship, the CCNI Antofagasta, left port during the strike without discharging its cargo.
After the arbitrator’s ruling, Local 333 returned to work under a 90-day cooling-off period while negotiations continued. There’s still no agreement, but the union and employers have pledged to refrain from a strike or lockout.
Despite criticism from some members, Local 333 President Riker “Rocky” McKenzie has refused to present the Steamship Trade Association’s contract offer to his rank and file.
McKenzie said additional issues have yet to be negotiated. The employers say their “best and final” offer is already on the table.
McKenzie could not be reached by the JOC but told the Baltimore Sun that union officials are seeking ways to appeal the ruling and avoid having to pay the $3.8 million.
“We disagree with the arbitrator’s whole handling of the entire process. That’s our position. We’re still in the discussion process as to how we’re going to move forward,” he said.