A dispute between the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Longshoreman Association has erupted at Port Newark, leading to a remarkable filing last month by IUOE Local 825 against ILA Locals 1233 & 1235 with the National Labor Relations Board.
Local 825 alleges that the ILA locals violated and continue to violate a section of the National Labor Relations Act by “threatening, coercing and restraining a third party, the Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT), with the object of causing PNCT to cease doing business with IUOE Local 825 signatory contractors … and IUOE Local 825.”
Over the winter, a letter of understanding was executed on a project that involved the construction and assembly of two Ship to Shore Cranes at PNCT for Liebherr Cranes. The work was anticipated to take 12 to 14 weeks and expected to use several IUOE Local 825 operators.
“In or about March 2023, Bay Crane commenced assembly and erection of the crane with IUOE Local 825 Operators. The project continued without incident until June 2, 2023, when IUOE Local 825 was informed that PNCT stopped work at the project and told all IUOE Local 825 operators to leave the project immediately due to ‘some sort of dispute, somewhere in the PNCT corporate universe between ILA and IUOE’ – a dispute that apparently does not involve IUOE Local 825, the ILA Locals, PNCT and not involving the project,” the complaint to the NLRB alleges. “Further, PNCT cancelled any work involving IUOE or IUOE support at the project. IUOE Local 825 was advised that PNCT feared that ILA Locals would strike and shut down all of PNCT’s operations at the Port of Newark, notwithstanding the fact that the dispute was unrelated to IUOE Local 825, PNCT, and the project.”
IUOE Local 825 said it attempted to get to the bottom of the alleged dispute and was unable to get any answers, reiterating its commitment to fulfilling the scope of the work specified in the LOU.
“Despite IUOE Local 825’s attempts, the ILA Locals continue to threaten, coerce, and/or restrain PNCT in order to force it to cease doing business with IUOE Local 825 signatory contractors and IUOE Local 825,” the complaint continues. “Incredibly, the ILA Locals’ threats and coercion did not stop at the project, but rather extended to any and all PNCT business at the Port of Newark involving IUOE Local 825 members and signatory contractors.”
Additionally, IUOE Local 825 filed a complaint with the NLRB against PNCT, alleging that it is also violating the NLRA “by discriminating with regard to the employment of IUOE Local 825 members to encourage membership in the ILA Locals, at the direction of the ILA Locals.
“Finally, IUOE Local 825 alleges that the ILA Locals, in concert with PNCT, violated and continue to violate Section 8(b)(2) of the Act by causing or attempting to cause an employer to discriminate against an employee based on the employee’s membership with IUOE Local 825,” the complaint alleges.
Representatives for the ILA locals did not immediately respond to a request for comment. PNCT said it does not comment on pending legal matters.
All of this comes against the backdrop of April’s landmark Supreme Court decision allowing New Jersey to withdraw from the Waterfront Commission. And it comes as the port is handling massive amounts of cargo.
While there is no definitive link between the dispute and when the Supreme Court decision was announced, Greg Lalevee, business manager of IUOE Local 825, expressed his dismay to NJBIZ about the situation and questioned the timing of his members being pulled from the job.
“With the interesting timing, it certainly appears as if we’re ushering in a new period of lawlessness in the port,” Lalevee told NJBIZ.
Following that Supreme Court decision in April, ILA President Harold Daggett issued a statement applauding the ruling. “International Longshoreman’s Association is extremely happy with today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision allowing New Jersey to unilaterally withdraw from the Waterfront Commission,” Daggett said. “The Waterfront Commission long ago abandoned its original purpose, and instead took advantage of the fact that it had no oversight by the New Jersey state government.”
“The ILA welcomes the arrival of the New Jersey State Police to the Port of New Jersey, recognizing that they will finally bring professionalism, transparency and accountability to administration of the Port,” Daggett added in April.