The International Longshoremen's Association said that 700 members of Local 1804-1, the largest local in the union, unanimously gave its president on Tuesday night authority to recommend a strike.
Meeting at a Ramada Inn in Newark, N.J., the members gave Dennis A. Daggett, "the authority to recommend and call for a
strike if that action becomes necessary when the current Master Contract
expires on September 30, 2012." ILA Local 1804-1 was
holding its August monthly meeting where its president mainly spoke of
current contract negotiations.
Local 1804-1, whose members do maintenance and repair work, is a key local for the union. Daggett is the son of Harold J. Daggett, the ILA's international president, who also attended the meeting. The older Daggett was president of the local before becoming president of the union.
The two men provided recaps of master contract negotiations with the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents steamship lines and terminals that employ ILA members.
According to an account of the meeting posted on the union's Facebook page
, Harold Daggett said negotiations were progressing up until
last week with negotiated landmark agreements on automation and chassis
work, but then "fell apart when members of USMX suddenly took a hardline position
and demanded givebacks in overtime pay, eight hour guarantees and
elimination of jobs."
ILA spokesman James A. McNamara, who attended the meeting, said the account of USMX's demands were greeted with laughter and expressions of disbelief by ILA members.
He said USMX is asking for changes in container royalty payments, and wants to be able to ask dockworkers to begin work at any time of day to reduce overtime and shift differential costs.
In an article
posted on its Website, USMX said "in the current negotiations over a new master contract, management is
not asking to eliminate container royalties, only to cap the payments
and use the excess, not as savings for employers but to help pay for
other benefits for ILA workers."
USMX said "the first container royalties were established in 1960 as a way to
protect members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO
(ILA) in New York from job losses created by containerization and its
introduction of automated cargo. In the more than half a century since,
container royalty payments to ILA workers, not only in New York but at
all the East and Gulf Coast ports, have increased dramatically, reaching
over $211 million in 2011 alone. Not all of that money ends up in the
pockets of ILA members; their union gets 10 percent – $21 million last
year – through a checkoff from each member’s royalty payment.
"The initial reason for implementing container royalties – to protect
ILA members from the loss of work – has long been forgotten. Today,
thousands of workers who were not even born in 1960 – or in 1968 when
container royalties were first distributed – continue to receive
payments that in 2011 averaged $15,500 for ILA workers at the 14 East
and Gulf Coast ports."
"Container royalties have morphed from an assessment imposed
through arbitration in 1960 to what they are today – another form of
compensation for ILA workers, who are among the nation’s most highly
compensated," USMX said. "The vast majority of ILA workers were not alive when
containerization was introduced in New York in the late 1950s. In fact,
only 136 of the 3,281 ILA workers at the Port of New York and New Jersey
today were working at the port in 1968, the year container royalties
were first distributed."
"Unlike the Port of New York and New Jersey, then and now the
predominant port on the East Coast, ILA workers at ports like Savannah
and Charleston saw their job opportunities grow because of
containerization," USMX said. "The container royalties they receive have been a bonus
that has nothing to do with any adverse job impact caused by
"The dramatic increase in royalty payments resulted from a combination
of two factors – the reduction in the number of ILA workers and an
increase in the tons of container cargo – from about 50 million tons in
1996 to 110 million in 2011.
"With fewer workers and more tons, royalty payments, which are based on
the weight of containerized cargo, have increased over the years. In the
14 years ending Sept. 30, 2011, the payments totaled $1.8 billion. In
Savannah alone, they increased from $6,028 in 1996 to nearly $36,000 per
worker in 2011," USMX added.
McNamara said the union has requested, but has not yet received, a "final and best offer" from USMX to present to the 200 leaders of the union who are wage scale delegates and must decide to vote any contract up or down.
Dennis Daggett told union members the ILA's decision last month to join the International Dockers Council
(IDC) has turned out to be a "strategic grand slam homerun."
“Portuguese Dockworkers have already written us indicating
that they not only were supporting our fight against USMX, but would
strike with us if we go out in October,” Daggett told his local members. - Chris Dupin