International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey a “lap dog” for the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and said the port agency “should look in the mirror before casting aspersions on others.”
Daggett issued a letter in response to last week’s statements by the port authority’s top two officers, who echoed Waterfront Commission claims that the ILA and New York Shipping Association weren’t living up to their contract’s pledge to hire more military veterans.
“Quite frankly, it is obvious that your office is merely serving as a lap dog and using this so-called press release to repeat misstatements that were force-fed to your office by the Waterfront Commission,” said Daggett’s letter to the port authority’s executive director, Patrick J. Foye.
The industry and the commission have been bickering for more than a year over details of hiring dockworkers that both sides agree are needed to relieve labor shortages that have worsened cargo delays at the Port of new York and New Jersey.
Daggett reiterated industry complaints that the commission, created in 1953 to combat crime on the docks, is interfering in collective bargaining by trying to micromanage implementation of the labor contract between the ILA and the NYSA.
The six-year contract allocates 51 percent of new jobs to military veterans, with the balance divided between ILA and NYSA referrals. The New York-New Jersey contract was pivotal to last year’s agreement on a broader coastwide master contract between the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance.
The Waterfront Commission has complained that the NYSA and ILA haven’t met their 51 percent target for veterans, that many applicants for veterans’ slots were referred by the ILA, and the industry has been slow to hire veterans after commission prequalification.
The ILA and NYSA blame delays in hiring of prequalified veterans on slow federal processing of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials. Many job candidates wait until they’re prequalified before paying for a TWIC application. The Transportation Security Administration takes several weeks to issue the cards.
The NYSA’s latest weekly tally shows that 212 workers have been hired, including 87 veterans, and that 234 have been cleared by the commission, including 102 veterans. Nearly 1,000 candidates have been interviewed, including 309 veterans, to begin a complex hiring process that includes industry screening, commission precertification, drug testing, and hiring.
Daggett said the NYSA and ILA were prepared to start hiring on Sept. 9, when they filed a joint request to add 532 longshoremen and 150 checkers. The start of hiring was delayed until February by arguments with the commission over wording of the employers’ certification letters.
The NYSA and ILA have filed a lawsuit accusing the commission of illegal interference in their collective bargaining agreement. The commission has requested dismissal of the lawsuit, and the two sides are awaiting a ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton.
Daggett said commission involvement in “determining the appropriate method for recruiting, referring, selecting, hiring, and training new employees is not only illegal but also is slowing down the hiring process.”
“This industry, like every other industry, does not need government involvement to dictate the terms of their collective bargaining agreement,” he said.
The Waterfront Commission denies it has slowed hiring, and it has accused the industry of dragging its feet and resisting commission pressure to increase diversity in the port’s ILA workforce.
The New York State Division of Human Rights has filed a complaint alleging discrimination in three New York ILA locals. The ILA and NYSA say the complaint cherry-picked locals on the New York side of the harbor, where ILA membership has been stagnant or declining for decades. They say African-Americans and Hispanics comprise more than one-third of the port-wide longshore register.
Daggett scoffed at last week’s statement by Foye and Deborah Gramiccioni, the agency’s deputy executive director, that the NYSA and ILA should follow the port authority’s example in hiring veterans. The port authority officials cited the recent hiring of 28 veterans for their police force.
The ILA president accused the port authority of trying “to divert attention from the well-deserved criticism” of the agency following last September’s intentional creation of traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge by political appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“We are all aware of your agency’s record regarding ‘Bridgegate,’” Daggett said in his letter to Foye. “Recent newspaper articles also have criticized your agency’s hiring as lacking diversity and rife with cronyism. I would have hoped for a little more modesty.”