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Port Shutdown Over Labor Issues in NY & SC Looms

U.S. longshoremen are calling out bi-state entities and state port authorities for neglecting shipping labor issues.

International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) members across the country are demanding a shutdown of ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and are planning a march on Washington to protest job loss and the resulting damaging effects on the nation’s economy. Many organizations, including the National Retail Federation (NRF) and retailers, are urging the ILA and U.S. Maritime Alliance to work together to avoid a potential port shutdown, which could hurt the operations of local businesses.

The planned Washington protest will address hiring practices in U.S. ports that intentionally reduce the number of dockworkers and potentially contribute to the nation’s financial demise. The South Carolina Port Authority, along with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, are being blamed for reducing the number of dockworkers and keeping port jobs unfilled. The Waterfront Commission’s current background check system is allegedly contributing to job shortages at the Port of New York and New Jersey, meanwhile the South Carolina State Port Authority allegedly uses unskilled non-ILA members to operate machinery over longshoremen.

“The Port of New York and New Jersey is regulated not only by the Waterfront Commission but also by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” ILA VP and ILA Local 1422 president Kenneth Riley said. “This overregulation is damaging to one of the nation’s busiest ports, and thus hundreds of local businesses that depend upon the port to survive, by reducing the number of dock workers and therefore the amount of cargo that could be moved.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, at the Port of New York and New Jersey, ILA members process more than $200 million worth of goods annually, providing thousands of jobs in the region. The port currently processes more than 70,000 metric tons of cargo and commodities, most of which are apparel and furniture. Failure to provide adequate workers at major ports, including the Port of New York and New Jersey, could result in economic decline and operational issues for retailers nationwide.

A “Journal of Commerce” report from last week said ILA members have been in talks with the United States Maritime Alliance, LTD. to slam the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the South Carolina Port Authority. At these Florida-based meetings, port regions from Maine to Texas are allegedly backing the ILA’s claims and plan to act accordingly to resolve these issues.

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Many consumer goods organizations, including the NRF and retailers, have expressed concern over the potential port shutdowns and Washington protest. The NRF urged the ILA and U.S. Maritime Alliance to work together to form a solution to avoid disruption of port activity throughout the U.S.

“We applaud the fact that the ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance have begun informal discussions on a contract extension well in advance of the current contract expiration, but proposing a shutdown runs counter to this spirit of cooperation and may threaten this positive action,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jon Gold said. “We urge the ILA to reconsider its plans and avoid damaging the image of East Coast and Gulf Coast ports as reliable business partners for retailers and other shippers.”