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.