A multimillion-dollar damage lawsuit against the International Longshoremen’s Association for an illegal work stoppage at the Port of New York and New Jersey has been dismissed and the dispute sent to binding arbitration.
The New York Shipping Association filed the lawsuit after the ILA halted work at the port for two days in September 2010 to protest the shift of Fresh Del Monte’s Philadelphia-area fruit imports to a non-ILA terminal. The lawsuit sought $5 million in damages, plus legal costs.
ILA President Harold Daggett bitterly criticized the lawsuit. In a speech at The Journal of Commerce’s Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference this month, he called the litigation an attempt to intimidate the union and declared that the ILA “will not be bullied.”
The NYSA lawsuit alleged the work stoppage was an illegal secondary boycott. Terminals were closed when New York-New Jersey port workers refused to cross picket lines posted by Philadelphia dockworkers.
U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise agreed last October to dismiss the case, saying the ILA and NYSA had agreed to submit the issue to arbitration. The NYSA asked the court in December to reopen the case, contending no formal agreement had been reached.
In his latest ruling, Dickinson said that despite delays in finalizing details and securing all parties’ signatures on the arbitration agreement, “a proposal was floated, an offer was authorized and extended, and … acceptance of the terms was achieved.”
The agreement to arbitrate includes three conditions: that federal discovery be permitted, that information produced in discovery remains confidential, and that the arbitration is binding on all of the New York-New Jersey and Philadelphia ILA locals in the case.