Two and a half years ago, the International Longshoremen's Association was digging in for a strike that could have crippled shipping along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The strike didn't happen. Yet the union power that led to the impasse remains. The Manhattan Institute has some ideas about how to avert future such showdowns. Last month it published a paper, “Held Hostage: U.S. Ports, Labor Unrest, and the Threat to National Commerce,” arguing that strikes and slowdowns, or the threat of them, impose high costs. Written by Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the report cites federal labor law as the main culprit, concluding Congress should shift responsibility for collective bargaining oversight from the National Labor Relations Board to the National Mediation Board.
On March 18, Elmer Ray Booker, former financial secretary for International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1530, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas with embezzling over $42,000 in funds from the Houston union. The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Raymond Norville was a home renovation contractor. Somehow he took that to mean a right to take client money without necessarily doing renovations. On November 18, Norville, owner of an Essex County, N.J.-based construction firm, RRL Unique Homes Inc., was sentenced in Trenton federal court to 14 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release and full payment of restitution, for defrauding a customer in New York City of nearly $100,000 in connection with a residential remodeling project. As part of a plea agreement in June, prosecutors dismissed charges that Norville defrauded the Newark-based International Longshoremen's Association Local 1233 of at least $100,000. Norville was lucky. Evidence strongly suggests his union thefts totaled around $370,000.
Gregory Taylor at least can be thankful that his required restitution could be higher. On September 12, Taylor, former secretary-treasurer of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1233, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to six months in prison plus six months of home confinement for embezzling funds from the Newark-based union. He also was ordered to pay $71,000 in restitution. Taylor had been charged in September 2011 and pleaded guilty this past February after initially pleading not guilty. Taylor already had been removed from his post by the union in May 2010. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Derrick Alexander apparently thought his union was a personal bank account. Now he's finding out the difference the hard way. On September 11, Alexander, formerly secretary-treasurer of International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local 1422-A, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina with embezzling nearly $55,000 from the Charleston union and concealing the thefts after the fact. A grand jury had concluded that Alexander made a "false statement and representation of material fact knowing it to be false." The four-count indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Whatever else might be said of the International Longshoremen's Association, this is one union that knows how to drive a hard bargain. On December 27, a federal mediator announced the ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance had reached a tentative contract agreement, thus heading off a potentially crippling strike at 14 Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The key obstacle to a settlement - whether or not to scrap cargo container royalties amounting to over $15,000 per worker a year - has been removed. Port owners had argued the practice is needless and costly; the union had insisted it is fair compensation for jobs lost to automation.
Whatever happened to the strike by the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) that was supposed to start October 1? The answer: It's on hold. On September 20 the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced that the ILA and a shipping industry consortium, the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), had agreed to continue negotiations until December 29. The 90-day contract extension averts a potentially crippling walkout at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The extension, says FMCS Director George Cohen, allows each party to focus on "outstanding core issues in a deliberate manner apart from the pressure of an immediate deadline." The ultimate issue, however, remains: union-driven work rules and accompanying corruption that raise shipping costs to often exorbitant levels.
When it comes to protecting job turf, few unions are as ferocious as the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). And the union isn't about to compromise that reputation, with its collective bargaining agreement set to expire September 30. "It looks like we're going to have a strike," said ILA President Harold Daggett (see photo). On August 22, talks in Delray Beach, Fla. between the ILA and a shipping industry trade group, the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), broke down. At this writing, they remain at an impasse, though each side has agreed to meet soon.
Raymond Norville may have advertised himself as a handyman, but his most pronounced skill appears to be placing his hands in union tills. On February 16, Norville, a northern New Jersey contractor, was arrested at his home after being charged two days earlier in Newark, N.J. federal court with one count of embezzling at least $100,000 from the Newark-based International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local 1233. And that figure may be on the low side. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the alleged offenses. The arrest follows a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor-Management Standards, along with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
On October 3, Frank Rago, former representative of the International Longshoremen's Association and former president of ILA Local 1604 in Stoneham, Mass., was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to a year and a day of incarceration followed by three years of supervised probation for making unlawful payments and falsifying union records after the fact. Rago used his position as an ILA representative to secure a no-show job with a local employer in order to continue making his line handler's salary without performing any work. He directed his union to pay his salary out of member deductions. In addition to receiving a sentence, he also was ordered to pay $216,384 in restitution, $10,000 in asset forfeiture and a $200 assessment. Rago was convicted by a jury in January 2010. The actions follow a joint probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.