The Delaware River Port Authority ejected union members from its meeting Jun.17 following a rowdy protest on behalf of 12 workers terminated for blocking traffic during a demonstration in May. Unionists turned out to support the toll collectors, and maintenance and construction workers fired last week by the Port Authority. The workers were fired for shutting down the Benjamin Franklin Bridge during a protest May 16. The agency said they created an unsafe condition on the span.
Shortly after the meeting began, Bill Kane, president of the NJ State Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO, sought permission to address the commissioners. Union members, who lined the perimeter of the room, stood and began
clapping. They chanted,”Let him speak!”as the chairman pounded the gavel, attempting to restore order. The chairman declared the protesters out of order and directed the sergeants-at-arms and security to remove them from the room. The union members left peacefully, saying,”We’ll be back, again and again.” About 70 people were arrested during the protest last month that halted traffic on the bridge for more than an hour. The group had permission from the Port Authority to march on the bridge’s pedestrian walkway. But when the marchers reached the bridge, some went onto the roadway.
The union has been without a contract since Jan. 1997 and has accused the Port Authority of trying to break it. The Port Authority unilaterally imposed a contract last fall after union members rejected 2 contract offers. “These are excellent jobs,” said Port Authority spokesman Joe Diemer. “There is no reason for this union to be militant.” [Bergen County Record 06/19/98]