By Harold J. Daggett
NORTH BERGEN, NJ – (Jan. 5, 2017) Your officers of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO are preparing for our upcoming informal talks with management leaders beginning February 13th, and we set our sights on 2017 and beyond. Our current six-year Master Contract will run until September 30, 2018 – giving us 20 months to negotiate a new Master Contract at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports or extend the current agreement.
These informal talks with representatives of United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) are not formal Wage Scale meetings. These informal talks will give the two sides an opportunity to address issues relating to our collective bargaining agreement. Sometime in the future, ILA Locals will receive notice of when formal Wage Scale meetings will begin. At that time, ILA Locals will be instructed to hold elections for ILA Wage Scale delegates and to submit lists of demands.
When the ILA meets for these informal talks in early February, it is my intention to relay two important issues to our employers. One is that the ILA intends to put greater emphasis on local contract bargaining. The last time around, several ILA local ports had failed to reach agreement on their local contracts before the Master Contract was ratified in April 2013. Major ports like Baltimore, Hampton Roads and Charleston were without local agreements for months and even years after the Master Contract took effect. The ILA will make certain that ILA members at all ports are satisfied with their local agreements before we ask them to ratify the entire contract package.
Secondly, I predict the issue of automation will dominate our Master Contract talks. Just recently, the New York Times featured an article “The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation.” The article revealed some shocking statistics from an industry whose many workers are members of our fellow AFL-CIO affiliated union, the United Steel Workers. Between 1962 and 2005, the article said, the steel industry lost 400,000 jobs, totaling 75 percent of its workforce. Most startling for the displaced workers: shipments of steel did not decline over that period. Profits were maintained while jobs were cut. The nearly half a million jobs lost in the steel industry was attributed to automation – new technology called the minimill.
The ILA will not allow automation to rip apart our livelihoods and destroy our jobs and families. Right from the outset, the ILA intends to let management know that we are totally opposed to FULLY-AUTOMATED TERMINALS.
I have announced this position this past summer at the 7th Annual International Dockers’ Council Convention in Miami and at recent meetings of my ILA Local 1804-1 where we welcomed a number of officers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Their president Bob McEllrath and I both know that Fully Automated Terminals spell the end of longshoring jobs, no questions asked.
The ILA has no problem with semi-automated terminals – we know that we cannot stop progress and many forms of new technology help our workers do their jobs more efficiently, more safely, but without the threat of job elimination. We will continue to press for training and retraining for our ILA members.
The ILA enters these informal talks more united and stronger than ever. We look to work with our management partners keeping our industry strong and vibrant, but will not submit to agreeing on anything that eliminates jobs.