Court dismisses case against NY Waterfront Commission
The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey has dismissed a complaint that was filed by the New York Shipping Association, Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors’ Association, International Longshoremen’s Association and two ILA locals against the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
The complaint “alleged that the commission was overstepping its statutory authority by requiring that hiring in the port be done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. They alleged that we were improperly interfering with their collective bargaining rights by doing so,” said Phoebe S. Sorial, general counsel for the commission.
Judge Susan Wigenton wrote in her decision “the eradication of racial and gender-based discrimination is a purpose of the compact” between New York and New Jersey that created the commission in 1953. The commission fights crime and corruption on the waterfront with its own police force, through background checks that bars criminals and regulates the number of workers in the harbor.
Earlier this year, John Nardi, the president of the NYSA, said, “We are the only port in America that has to jump through such bureaucratic hoops just to fill one empty position, let alone the hundreds that remain. We already are seeing cargo being rerouted to other ports due to the delays in hiring skilled labor. There is a better way. Like every business, we need a right-sized work force of well-trained, diverse and capable individuals as determined by the employer, not a quasi-governmental agency.”
Harold Daggett, the president of the ILA, said the commission "has no business interfering with the collective bargaining agreement between the ILA and New York Shipping," and accused it of "costing the port revenue, denying workers, including returning U.S. Veterans, much-needed jobs and creating unsafe working conditions for the existing workforce that’s trying to keep commerce moving in and out of our ports."
Soriel said, “Since the enactment of the act in 1953, the NYSA and ILA — disgruntled by its limiting effect on their perceived absolute collective bargaining rights to engage in conduct that promotes discriminatory hiring practices — have challenged virtually every attempt by the commission to ensure that they abide by the spirit and the letter of the act. Over the past 60 years, courts have consistently upheld the commission’s actions when a collective bargaining agreement has violated the act. We are very pleased with today’s decision, which sends the clear and unmistakable message to the ILA, NYSA and MMMCA that their attempts to institutionalize discrimination through collective bargaining agreements will not be tolerated.”
NYSA had no immediate comment, saying it was studying the decision. NYSA administers a collective bargaining agreement for about 3,500 employees, and the MMMCA has one for about 1,000 employees registered with the commission.
Last fall, the NYSA asked the commission to open the longshore register to add 682 new employees under a plan where 50 percent would be military veterans, 25 percent would NYSA referrals and 24 percent would be referrals from the NYSA. To date, 348 jobs have been filled and hundreds of others are in the process of being hired, a process that includes background checks by the Waterfront Commission.
Soriel said the decision would not affect current employees, as the Waterfront Commission has been reviewing those hires to make sure that they are fair and non-discriminatory.