After 18 months of uncertainty, members approved a contract negotiated by International Longshoremen Association officials and the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore. The agreement is intended to supplement ILA’s upcoming coastwise master contract which addresses automation, outsourcing of work, and health care, among other items. Approval of the contract comes as a relief to customers as well as officials and employers who have dealt with continued strife since the three day strike in October 2013. That relief, however, may not last long.
Last November, Wilbert Rowell was named Trustee of Local 333 when accusations arose that leaders of the chapter had been stacking union rolls in order to win local elections. Upon Rowell’s appointment, he purged the rolls of about 500 recently appointed members.
86 of those employees whose membership was taken away from them, in addition to former Local 333 president Riker McKenzie and former recording secretary Ezekiel Givens, filed a lawsuit against both the national ILA and the STA alleging that they had been removed from leadership and membership positions in the union as “part of an effort by the national ILA and the Steamship Trade Association to gain a local contract to their liking.”
Jeff Worley paid nearly $2,200 in fees and dues and was sworn in as a member of Local 333 in September. Last month, he received a letter stating that he was no longer a member and the dues he paid would be refunded. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Worley voiced his concerns: How much money did the union take from “would-be members;” and how much interest did they earn on that money before informing those workers their prospective membership wasn’t going to happen?
This is a pivotal time for operations at our nation’s ports. Labor disagreements and negotiations are making us appear unreliable and causing shippers to make other arrangements. The Port of Portland is on its way to being out of the container business altogether. Hanjin Shipping, which provided nearly 80 percent of the port’s container business, left in February, and now there is speculation that Hapag-Lloyd may be pulling out as well. If the rumors prove to be true, it will not only affect Portland’s economy, but Port of Lewiston in Idaho as well. Upriver from Portland via the Columbia Snake River channel, Hapag-Lloyd currently handles 90 percent of their business.