NORTH BERGEN, NJ. (April 17, 2020) ILA Leadership wasted little time jumping into action to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its ILA workforce, long before the Coronavirus Pandemic began a national crisis throughout North America and around the world. While their effort was strong and tireless from the very start, the availability of PPE grew scarcer as those affected by COVID-19 expanded.
In many ILA communities, the longshore union, employer groups, and port authorities who were trying to secure PPE for waterfront employers, recognized they were competing against vital medical personnel and first-responders who were handing COVID-19 patients.
Government agencies were soon overwhelmed, prompting ILA leadership to take it upon themselves to get much needed equipment to protect their members.
“In New York and New Jersey, we called on the Governors and other State legislators pleading with them to help us get PPE,” said Dennis Daggett who was joining with other ILA Local Presidents in the Port of New York and New Jersey in his role as President of Local 1804-1. He was also helping all ILA ports as International Executive Vice President.
As soon as we ran into roadblocks with Federal and State Leadership, the ILA, Metro and New York Shipping Association took it upon themselves to find PPE, and we worked around the clock to do so,” added Daggett. “We got tremendous support from Joseph Ragusa at Metro and Sam Ruda from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We continue to hold weekly conference calls with NYSA, Metro and the Port Authority to stay ahead of our needs for PPE.”
Just this week, Daggett reported the ILA in New York and New Jersey secured 10,000 masks, distributed 50-gallon drum sanitizers to every terminal and outside depots and gave out 7,000 pairs of safety gloves.”
Dennis Daggett and other New York-New Jersey ILA leaders established an informational Facebook page to inform members of news relating to COVID-19. The “ILA Ports of NY-NJ Covid-19 Information” Facebook page lets members know when terminals have been sanitized, number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and about the delivery of PPE.
“It’s been very successful,” Dennis Daggett said of the Facebook information page.
In Boston, the ILA has taken a number of preventive actions to protect against COVID-19 and management has provided hand sanitizers, bleach spray, rags, wipes, masks, gloves and goggles for each ILA member.
The ILA District Council of Philadelphia/Wilmington reports that they to work with the Philadelphia Marine Trade Association and Employers on a daily basis to provide protection for the men and women who are working as longshoremen during this National Public Health Emergency.
“This includes measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as hiring healthcare workers with temporal scanners at hiring halls and port entrances to take the temperatures of workers using all available means to distribute PPE, hand sanitizer, washing stations and the sanitation of equipment, hiring halls and work area,” they reported.
Scott Cowan, President, ILA Local 333 in the Port of Baltimore and an International Vice President and Executive Board member said his local secured 3,000 washable reusable face masks for its members.
“With the help of ILA Executive Vice President Dennis Daggett, we secured three 55-gallon drums of sanitizer,” said Cowan. “The Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore has been conducting temperature checks at the hiring hall and most container terminals.”
Local 333 has scheduled sanitized cleaning daily and, by erecting a tent by the hiring hall to expand space for ILA members and maintain proper social distancing requirements.
Scott Cowan said the ILA in Baltimore has also created an informational Facebook page related to COVID-19 protocol.
At the Port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, Larry Bachtell, Atlantic Coast District Vice President, reported that Virginia International Terminals are providing gloves and hand sanitizer stations and disinfecting wipes throughout the terminals.
“They have also ordered 100,000 disposable masks and 5,000 cloth washable and reusable masks,” said Bachtell. Hampton Roads locals and the District Council are prepared to supplement PPE supplies, if needed.
The Port of Charleston, South Carolina has been proactive since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Temperature screen has been ongoing for several weeks now at ILA Local 1422, according to its President Kenneth Riley, who also serves as an International Vice President and ILA Executive Council member.
“The employers in the Port of Charleston have stepped up and are now contributing PPE for our workers in a real significant way,” said Riley. “They have delivered hand sanitizers, gloves and masks to the union hiring hall and will continue to do so as they acquire them. With masks now available, Local 1422 will soon require every ILA worker entering the hiring hall must have on a mask.”
Willie J. Seymore, International Vice President from the Port of Savannah, Georgia who also serves as Executive Vice President, South Atlantic and Gulf Coast District, said ILA members in his home port are getting equipped with PPE.
Frank Ryan, President, Local 1475 in Savannah, said ILA members are distributing hand sanitizer, supplied by Ceres, throughout the port. ILA Local members and even Frank’s wife, Amanda and two children, Frank and Anniston spent the weekend filling hand sanitizer into small bottles for distribution among ILA workers.
Ryan said the ILA is awaiting a large order of masks to be delivered.
International Vice President Vince Cameron from the Port of Jacksonville, Florida said that employers are providing, but not mandating wearing, face masks. Other PPE is being provided.
Further south in Fort Lauderdale, Johnnie Dixon, President Local 1526 is dealing with a double-edged sword: Keeping his members protected from COVID-19 and making up for the massive shortfalls in hours worked by ILA members on cruise ships.
Employers at Port Everglades have teamed up with ILA to conduct temperature screenings and to protect workers.
“That’s our number one priority said Dixon.
Many ILA members in the Port of Miami donned the maximum safety equipment two weeks ago when the passenger cruise ship “Coral Princess” docked and was unloaded at that South Florida port. Two passengers had died aboard the Coral Princess and many more were infected with the Coronavirus, but brave ILA members put on full HAZMAT suits to disembark passengers and unload luggage from the COVID-19 infected cruise ship.
A number of ILA ports are still looking to obtain PPE. At the Port of Houston, a supply drive for Face Masks and Gloves will be held next Friday, April 24th from 7 am to 5 pm.
ILA President Harold J. Daggett this week sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking the White House to assist in obtaining PPE.
“As you know, our nation’s ports are crucial to the country’s economy and the well-being of all citizens,” said President Daggett. “Everything from food to medical supplies travel through our nation’s ports on a daily basis. While many citizens can protect themselves by staying at home and practicing social distancing, longshore workers must continue to work in proximity to others and therefore their primary means of protection is personal protective equipment (PPE, specifically masks, gloves, sanitizer, and wash stations.
“Both the ILA and the ILA members’ employers have made significant efforts to secure PPE for longshore workers,” continued Daggett. “However, because of severe shortages, these efforts have failed to provide all needed supplies. Because our nation’s economy and all citizens depend on the continued operations of U.S. ports, the ILA requests the federal government’s assistance to obtain PPE to protect all longshore workers and to permit them to continue to perform their jobs at the utmost level of efficiency and safety.”
The ILA is also contacting all US Senators calling on them to secure PPE for ILA workforce.