An employer-union lawsuit against the new rules of New York Harbor’s Waterfront Commission for recruitment of dockworkers in the New Jersey and New York ports has been dismissed by a federal judge.
Owing to the lawsuit, a dispute regarding recruitment of dockworkers for International Longshoremen’s Association has become more complex. The hiring was being done to cope up with labor shortages which are causing continual delays at the busiest container port of the east Coast.
During the dismissal of the lawsuit, Susan Wigenton, US District Judge nullified claims that the commission had gone beyond its authority and indulged in interference with respect to collective bargaining through application of new rules which prohibit applicant referrals by the union for ILA jobs.
The commission was accused by the ILA and its employers of attempting to micromanage a recruitment process which was negotiated the previous year among the union, the Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association and the New York Shipping Association.
According to the commission, the rules pertaining to the hiring process aim to augment the diversity in the ILA workforce of the port. The ILA and NYSA countered saying that the current workforce already had over one-third Hispanic or black.
Wigenton passed the judgment that the commission is a bi-state crime watchdog bureau. Hence, it has the power to monitor and control hiring practices that were discriminatory in nature. To prove her point, she made citations from amendments to the bi-state compact which was responsible for inception of the commission in 1953. She also remarked that the amendments were endorsed by the industry spokesmen at the time of their proposal.
In a 30 page opinion, Wigenton stated that one of the vital purposes of the compact and a part of the commission’s authority is to put a check on biased hiring practices and strive towards the creation of a diverse workforce. It also incorporates the removal of dishonest hiring customs, including the decisive elimination of women and racial and ethnic minorities.
A request by the commission for sanctions against the ILA and NYSA was also dismissed by Wigenton with the reason that it allegedly misrepresented the stance of the agency with respect to the recruitment of new workers. She made it clear that the request for sanctions was made debatable owing to her dismissal of the lawsuit.
Phoebe Sorial, General Counsel, Waterfront Commission, remarked that Wigenton maintained the authority of the commission to control hiring practices set up in collective bargaining agreements.
In a statement Sorial said that during the past 6 decades, courts have continually supported the actions of the commission whenever the act had been violated by a collective bargaining agreement. The present decision sends an unambiguous message to the MMMCA, NYSA and ILA highlighting that that their endeavor to institutionalize discriminatory practices by means of collective bargaining agreements would not be accepted.
A local contract of 6 years signed last year by the ILA and NYSA allocates 24 percent of new hires for NYSA referrals, 25 percent for ILA referrals and 51 percent for military veterans. This has been the foundation for recruitment of 682 checkers and longshoremen for which commission approval has been requested by ILA and NYSA.