ILA President Harold J. Daggett Statement regarding New York Governor Kathy Hochul Filing Lawsuit With U.S. Supreme Court Seeking To Block New Jersey’s Desire to Withdraw from Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor
NORTH BERGEN, NJ – (March 16, 2022) Harold J. Daggett, President of the International Longshoremen’s Association, issued the following statement after New York Governor Kathy Hochul sued New Jersey to stop them from withdrawing from Waterfront Commission, as of March 28, 2022:
“This week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul launched an eleventh-hour lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court against New Jersey to block their attempt to withdraw from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor later this month. This action by Gov. Hochul can only be termed as shameful, disgraceful, and politically motivated. New York Governor Hochul fails to recognize how the Waterfront Commission has crippled economic growth at the Port of New York and New Jersey for decades. She needs to know about their shattered legacy of this impotent and outdated Commission
New Jersey got it right and New York is wrong, Gov. Hochul has failed in her duty to lead and act in the best interest of this great economic engine of the Port of New York and New Jersey. She has dishonored New Yorkers by trying to prop up an ineffective Waterfront Commission that two New Jersey Governors – one a Democrat and one a Republican – and dozens of New Jersey Lawmakers, and even the U.S. Supreme Court have deemed unnecessary, and needed to go.”
The ILA and most every stakeholder in the industry applauded New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Lawmakers who sought to replace the Waterfront Commission with the more professional, well-funded, New Jersey State Police and take over the duties of longshore background checks, a task the ILA believes the Commission had long abused, to the detriment and costly expense of the shippers and carriers trying to operate their businesses at this port, as well as the longshore workers whose careers and lives were wrecked by this agency.
The entire industry – from employers who hire ILA longshore workers represented by New York Shipping Association, to those longshore workers and to business and lawmakers across the Metropolitan area – were looking ahead two-weeks to March 28th, with great optimism at the prospect of enjoying a bright, prosperous future at the Port of New York and New Jersey by finally modernizing port over-sight. All stakeholders who really cared about the health and future of the Port of New York and New Jersey were ecstatic to be free from the Waterfront Commission, and, from our ILA viewpoint, all its dirty dealings, financial malpractices, and absolute hypocrisy in their claims of keeping corruption off the waterfront.
The gloves are coming off! We in the ILA will no longer remain silent. We are going to expose the disgraceful practices of the Waterfront Commission, who have never had to answer to anyone. They need to go. I am so tired of hearing them crying about my union. I would challenge anyone from the Waterfront Commission – especially Walter Arsenault and Phoebe Sorial – to leave their cozy offices, and come to the docks on the waterfront, scale a four-story ladder in 10-degree temperature, with the wind blowing, and biting your face, and walk atop the roofs of icy containers, like my lashers do bravely round the clock, in treacherous conditions throughout the year to keep cargo moving in and out of this port.
Yes, my members make good salaries – they make great salaries and deserve every penny. You have a professional NFL quarterback who just received a $200 million four-year contract to throw a football around Wisconsin. Not once in recent months, have you heard about ships anchored outside the entrances of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Those longshore workers making those big salaries are the ones keeping this port open and humming round the clock while many other ports suffered severe delays.
Every ILA worker – even the ones the Waterfront Commission tries to embarrass, harass or denigrate – has been investigated and cleared by the Commission itself. It was the Commission who found them free of criminal taint and issued them a registration. And the Commission always retained the right to revoke anyone’s registration at any time if they could prove some sort of wrongdoing. The Waterfront Commission should be ashamed of publicly convicting ILA member in the press, knowing full well that their statements and charges were false.
My members work at the most dangerous jobs in the world and deserve to be paid for it. Two weeks ago, we lost an 18-year-old ILA member in the Port of Jacksonville, Florida. We’ve lost 17 longshore workers in the past four years to on-the-job accidents. Add in the 30 ILA workers who died in the past two years after being exposed to COVID-19 at their worksites while trying to keep cargo moving all during this horrible pandemic.
It’s absolute bullshit for anyone – least of all Walter and Phoebe to question the value of ILA workers and what they are paid, and what they mean to our nation’s economy,
It’s a damn tragedy for the Waterfront Commission to enjoy free reign and target Italian Americans as part of their historic anti-worker campaign. Let’s be real here. The Waterfront Commission has, for decades, claimed good jobs went to only those with, so-called “Mob ties”.
They tried to back up their false claims by listing names and displaying photographs of Italian American ILA longshore workers, most who have distinguished themselves with helping to make this Port one of the greatest, most productive ones in America. Yes, the very workers they criticized were the ones who dedicate 24 hours a day of each day of their lives to making sure operations run smoothly at all ILA facilities.
They even got Gov. Hochul to join in this vicious slander when she tried to explain her misguided actions at suing New Jersey to protect the Waterfront Commission. She claimed New Jersey’s withdrawal “would likely cause immediate and irreparable harm to New York, resulting in increased criminal activity, higher prices on incoming goods, and racial and gender inequalities in hiring at the port.”
Gov. Hochul – that’s total bullshit, and a dark, ugly attack on Italian Americans. Since you seem to enjoy the Waterfront Commission’s tactic of disparaging our successful Italian American leadership and buying into their media manipulation of publicly posting photographs of innocent workers and claiming they are guilty of “Association,” you might want to take a look at a photo the ILA is including with this statement. Waterfront Commission General Counsel Phoebe is seen in photograph escorting her convicted felon father-in-law out of a Long Island courthouse. The Waterfront Commission, for decade after shameful decade, has denied employment and crushed careers of countless ILA longshore workers, citing “Association” with known criminals. This held true, even if the potential ILA candidate was a fine and upstanding citizen, who never did a thing wrong in their lives. By the Waterfront Commission’s own practice, Phoebe should have been barred from occupying her position years ago. After all, she surely was associating with her father-in-law ,who was convicted of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.”
The ILA has employed the use of an independent Ethical Practices Counselor for over 20 years. The well-respected Judge Milton Mollan was the first to hold this important position for a number of years. All ILA officers and members must adhere to a strict “ILA Code of Ethics.” ILA members who feel threatened, or if they suspect they are being harmed or influenced by organized crime elements, can call a toll-free number, and register their concern or complaint directly with the Ethical Practices Counselor, and do so in totally anonymity. The Ethical Practices Counsel, in turn, enjoys free reign to investigate any suspected wrongdoing, free from interference from any ILA officer or member. When you really think about it, the ILA has acted as more of a successful watchdog and provided more effective oversite in the past 20 years than the Waterfront Commission has during their dismal, sorry six-decade campaign.
How can it be possible that the Waterfront Commission’s core responsibility is to keep organized crime off the docks; but they publicly state and list the names of people who they claim are connected to organized crime and working on the docks? Further, how can the Governor of New York support such improbable logic with a lawsuit against New Jersey and keep this agency in place?
Every other ILA port in America, including those in the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Puerto Rico, Great Lakes and Canada, work fine without a Waterfront Commission. There are nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies overseeing the docks already in this port. The Waterfront Commission is nothing more than an annual $14.7 million headache and mistake for the shippers and carriers trying to remain competitive in this port, while employing thousands of workers. They are forced to fund this disgraceful agency.
The Waterfront Commission has written their own death sentence by claiming they have failed in their most important mission. Everything that anyone views as wrong with the port has happened under their watch. Now more than ever, the entire Port of New York and New Jersey needs a new sheriff in town. That’s why Gov. Murphy got it right to arrange for the New Jersey State Police to do the job that the Waterfront Commission failed so miserably for so long. And Gov. Hochul chose a failed agency over a competent one. Here are some examples the ILA believes shows why the Waterfront Commission must be removed from life-support:
- The Waterfront Commission answers to no one. They cared more for the mission to protect their own jobs, rather than expand the opportunity for jobs and growth in New York and New Jersey.
- They ignored former Gov. Chris Christie’s conditional veto to modernize their practices and place a freeze on salary increases, and they currently ignore Gov. Phil Murphy’s directive.
- A former New Jersey Commissioner for the Waterfront Commission voted against the motion to take the New Jersey Withdrawal Case to U.S. Supreme Court. The ILA believes that when they ignored his objection, the action they took was wrong.
- New Jersey State Police can process a job application, including background check, within 30 days. The Waterfront Commission took up to two years to process applications.
- ILA members make big salaries, but the talent at this port has been responsible for the supply chain success seen in this port keeping cargo here, while other areas have failed.
- The Waterfront Commission’s relentless attack on these workers is a threat to the economic viability of the Port and region.
- The worker shortages they produce create daily safety challenges.
- The Waterfront Commission is playing fast and loose with finances. According to the Waterfront Compact, the Waterfront Commission is directed to maintain 10 percent in reserve. It has been revealed that the Commission has attempted to hide a surplus amount of money, reportedly building a $30 million reserve. Ten percent of their annual budget translates into a reserve of $1.4 million. We believe they are engaging in an illegal activity holding any excess funds.
- Waterfront Commission has accused workers because they were related to criminals, but the Commission also has members of its leadership who are related to convicted felons. They are allowed to flaunt their relationships, while port workers lose their jobs.
- Waterfront Commission has repeatedly violated individual’s constitutional rights. We believe there’s evidence out there proving the Commission may be violating New Jersey and United States privacy laws in illegally obtaining phone records, GPS location data and bank records.
- In our opinion, Waterfront Commission engaged in illegal drug testing without individualized reasonable suspicion in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- The Waterfront Commission chooses, hires, and pays their own administrative law judges to preside over a “kangaroo” court. More shockingly, it routinely invalidates the decision of any judge when it does not agree with the recommendation.
- The Commission has consistently rejected requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, and New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act seeking public records claiming that neither law applied since it is a bi-state entity. Unsurprisingly, a recent Daily News article cites that it received salary information regarding port workers via a public records request.
- Waterfront Commission manipulate hiring procedures – constantly changing rules/procedures.
- Causing other parties to sue on their behalf – ILA defended and won a case brought by New York State Division of Human Rights.
- Consistently violating the orders of the State of New Jersey.
Please, someone tell me “where is the oversite for this runaway train wreck?”. A regulatory agency with unlimited power. The ILA further believes the Commission has engaged in an Abuse of Power, Illegal Subpoenas, and using civil subpoenas as criminal subpoenas.
The Industry is not getting rid of a Mob Watchdog. The State of New Jersey is moving to bring in a better equipped one with the New Jersey State Police who do not have to conger up wrongdoing to ensure their survival.
I want the world to know just how despicable the Waterfront Commission is and what a cancer it has been on our industry for far too long. Gov. Hochul, instead of listening to biased retired prosecutors, you should have called and met with New York Shipping Association and the ILA before you made this misguided decision to sue your neighboring State. You made no effort to hear both sides of the issue and understand the industry’s views We can’t help but think your actions were politically motivated – you are running for re-election.
Our brave ILA members and their families need you, Gov. Hochul, to make decisions based on what’s good for the citizens of New York. In protecting a handful of Waterfront Commission Executives desperate to hold on to their needless jobs, Gov. Hochul is jeopardizing tens of thousands of port and port-related jobs that are lost every year because of the Waterfront Commission. ILA workers kept ports open for the past 48 months, even in the worst periods of time during the Covid crisis when our members didn’t know if going to work on the docks, meant sacrificing their very lives.
The N-95 masks that protected doctors, nurses, and other first responders throughout the Covid crisis; the medical supplies that were delivered to hospitals and nursing homes; the food that made it to the shelves of supermarkets: these were but a few of many examples of our ILA workers performing their jobs as true American Front-Line Heroes.
But these ILA Front Line heroes are not saps and they are growing angry over decades of abuse by the Waterfront Commission, not just in the Port of New York and New Jersey, but at all ILA ports. When one ILA members suffers, we instinctively do what we need to do to protect that harmed ILA member. I am doing everything in my power to keep my membership from taking matters into their own hands – they are ready to take this battle to the streets. Do you realize what would happen to this U.S. economy if the ILA member said:
“Enough”, and walks off the job? Do you realize what would happen to the U.S. economy if the flow of cargo is stopped? Our U.S. President would have to get involved. This misguided action by New York Gov. Hochul could explode into a national crisis.
I share New York Shipping Association’s disappointment that legislation to modernize the oversight over Port operations and the Waterfront Commission itself, passed in New Jersey many years ago gained no support in New York. Gov. Hochul, New York accounts for only 10 percent share of port activity and made no effort to enact initiatives to modernize and enhance Waterfront Commission oversight. New York needed only to enact parallel legislation to give effect to New Jersey’s legislative efforts to make the Port of New York and New Jersey a preferred destination for shippers of cargo.
With nearly 90 percent of the Port’s activity in New Jersey, it is practical and just for New Jersey to take control of its own destiny and subsequent economic developments by moving the oversight of the Port’s workforce and the companies that employ them to the New Jersey State Police, a law enforcement entity with substantial resources and expertise. Our management partners strongly support New Jersey in asserting its sovereignty over its Port, under the auspices of the New Jersey State Police, and in its efforts to finally modernize and protect the State’s and Port region’s significant economic engine.
Gov. Hochul, follow the lead of your fellow Governor Phil Murphy, and put an end to this terror reign known as the Waterfront Commission.
Harold J. Daggett
International Longshoremen’s Association
March 16, 2022