NORTH BERGEN, NJ – (May 23, 2018) The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has joined the International Dockers’ Council (IDC) pledging full support to members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO at the Port of Philadelphia and Wilmington in their current battle with Ports of Delaware River Marine Trade Association and two companies. The two worldwide labor organizations indicated they would take all lawful steps to help the ILA reclaim lost work.
Last week, the ILA announced that as it was engaging in negotiations with United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) on a possible six-year contract extension, it is simultaneously working on plans with its ILA membership in the Port of Philadelphia and Wilmington to recapture work lost to non-ILA and non-union companies.
“It’s time to address the Port of Philadelphia and Wilmington and how certain companies, the Ports of Delaware River Marine Trade Association (PMTA) and the Philadelphia Port Authority have exploited our ILA members there for decades, gutting local ILA contracts, and stripping them of their dignity and livelihoods,” said International President Harold J. Daggett. “All waterfront jobs at the Port of Philadelphia and Wilmington belong to my ILA members and we are ready and prepared to do whatever it takes to get those jobs back. We are going to arm our members there with solidarity and support to engage in this battle.”
One strategy may be to allow the ILA in the Port of Philadelphia and Wilmington to “carve itself out” of the ILA-USMX Master Contract, freeing the membership there to exercise their right to strike and freedom of assembly against non-ILA and non-union companies.
“The International Dockers’ Council stands in full solidarity with our Sister and Brother members of the ILA in the Port of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Wilmington (Delaware) as it battles employers Holt Logistics and J & H Stevedores as well as the employer group, PMTA, Ports of Delaware River Marine Trade Association, all of whom have demonstrated horrible contempt for ILA union workers,” wrote Jordi Aragunde Miguens, IDC General Coordinator. “We will join the ILA in fight their attempts to strip workers and their families of decent and livable wages and benefits.”
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the 20 million member transportation workers of the ITF wrote: “You have the undivided solidarity of your sisters and brothers of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in the fight to support members in Philadelphia and Wilmington.”
USMX has been promoting its strong partnership with ILA and touting the four-plus decades of industry stability at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The ILA believes its Master Contract with USMX has allowed non-ILA companies operating out of the Port of Philadelphia to prosper and grow while ILA workers suffer.
According to ILA officers in the port of Philadelphia, the PMTA consists of two double-breasted operators that work at three significant facilities on the Delaware River. The Holts operate Greenwich Terminals at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal through a lease with the State of Pennsylvania and ILA members are employed at that facility. The Holts also own and operate Gloucester Terminals in New Jersey, a facility where they displaced ILA workers in the early 1990’s.
They now operate the Paulsboro Marine Terminal through a lease with the State of New Jersey, and employ non-ILA workers. The Browns own J&H Stevedores and operate Pier 80 using ILA workers through a lease with the State of Pennsylvania. They also use ILA workers at their Murphy Marine Terminal in the port of Wilmington, Delaware, as well as for Dole and Chiquita. The Browns do not use ILA workers at Horizon Inc. that operates at Pier 82. These companies’ ILA operations are part of the PMTA, and therefore parties to the Master Agreement by virtue of their memberships. The ILA charges that these companies keep wages and benefits stagnant by pitting their non-ILA operations against the ILA workers and have put little effort into negotiating a local agreement that could be paired with the potential six-year Master Contract.
ILA leaders in Philadelphia reported that ILA Locals have been prepared to negotiate since August of 2017. The PMTA canceled negotiations in December 2017. Mandated by USMX to hold local negotiations, PMTA produced what the ILA described as a “ridiculous proposal filled with major concessions,” followed by giving its last and final proposal on the industry-imposed deadline of May 15, 2018.
“By its actions, the PMTA has proven itself to be an enemy of ILA workers, committed to stripping workers of decent wages, proper pensions and other protections,” said the ILA. “We are going to position our ILA members there to take whatever legal actions they can to protect their jobs and future. The ILA is certain that its membership at all ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and through our affiliations with the world-wide International Dockers’ Council and International Transport Workers’ Federation, will stand in solidarity with our Sister and Brother ILA members in the port of Philadelphia and Wilmington.”
The IDC responded immediately with a statement indicating it was prepared to strike shipping companies calling on the port of Philadelphia and Wilmington at all its affiliated ports around the world if they failed to take action against these non-ILA companies and the PMTA. The leadership of the ITF joined them: “The east coast of the US belongs to the ILA. Your members support each other and embody the dignity, respect and unity that we promote around the world. Again, on behalf of 20 million transport workers from 650 unions in 140 countries worldwide, we are with you in this fight.”