The International Longshoremen’s Association Poses Threats for a Coast-Wide One-Day Shut Down

updated February 27, 2017

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) is threatening to shut down the East Coast ports and Gulf Coast ports and orchestrate a march on Washington to protest hiring practices that allegedly reduce the number of dockworkers.  The protests are mainly aimed at the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and South Carolina Port Authority which both require extensive background checks, which in turn allegedly could result in job shortages throughout the ports. Apparently the (one-day) coast-wide shutdown could easily be held in the next 30 days.  The public should find out the last week of February from an announcement the ILA plans to give.

According to the Journal of Commerce, “The ILA has long has a rocky relationship with the Waterfront Commission.”  The JOC goes on to state, “Commission duties including vetting dockworkers and port business and conducting criminal investigations.”

Actually, Chris Dupin of American Shipper just reported on February 27, 2017, “Harold Daggett, the president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, is asking his members not to shut down East and Gulf Coast ports, but instead is seeking an emergency meeting with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss issues of concern to the union.”

International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett said he will seek help from Congress in union disputes with the South Carolina Ports Authority and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

~ American Shipper

From this, we can gather that there is a good chance

there will be NO work stoppage.

Nonetheless, we urge our clients to be alert

and be prepared.

Furthermore, in response to the International Longshoremen’s Association’s threat, Peter Friedmann, the executive director of The Agriculture Transportation Coalition wrote a letter on Feburary 23, 2017, to U.S. Department of Transportation’s secretary, Elaine Chao. Parts of the letter state reasons why the US Government should step in including past history of strikes and their impact on the very important agriculture industry of the United States.  The letter is a good summary of how shutdowns and congestion at the port can really have a negative impact on the U.S. economy.  To read the full letter, click here.

Parts of the letter written by Peter Friedmann are quoted below:

“The impact of such an action would be devastating to one of the most important sectors of the US economy. We ask that you bring your experience and office to bear to prevent such a shutdown, and to protect the export economy from injury that in some cases will be irreversible.”

This is the basis for our alarm concerning the threatened shutdowns: our exports constantly face the challenge of foreign competition. In fact, the motivating factor for the establishment of the AgTC 28 years ago was this: there is nothing that we export in agriculture, forest products and many commodities, that cannot be sourced somewhere else in the world. If we do not deliver efficiently, affordably and dependably, our foreign customers have demonstrated that they can and will find another source in another country. We have learned this lesson during the two shutdowns of US West Coast ports during longshore labor contract disputes in 2002 and 2014-2015. In some cases, the foreign customers have nurtured new sources elsewhere, and they have been lost to the US exporter – permanently.

Currently, much of our export sector faces domestic and international challenges: truck weight limits that are the lowest in the developed world, leading to trucking inefficiency and competitive disadvantage for our exporters; the high value of the dollar; uncertainty in the face of dramatic consolidation of ocean carriers (from 18 to 11 in just a few months); introduction of much larger ships exacerbating congestion at marine terminals, many of which are already not as productive as most of our foreign competitors; chassis unavailability, to name a few. To add to this list another shutdown of our ports, would again undermine our reputation as dependable suppliers. Unlike apparel, footwear, and electronics with particular brands and sources demanded by consumers, the cows in Japan don’t care where their forage comes from, the Chinese mills can use any cotton from multiple countries, consumers of T-shirts and jeans don’t generally know where the cotton was grown, diners in restaurants around the world may not know where the soybeans in their tofu, or the pork, beef, French fries, chicken on their plates, come from. Wood for construction can be sourced in many countries. So there is no reason for manufacturers, restaurants, grocery chains, home builders, and others overseas to tolerate delay or shortages due to disruption at US ports. Unfortunately, we have ample and recent experience as to the impact of the shutdown of operations of marine terminals – in 2002, 2014-2015 and sporadic disruption in between. For every day a terminal is shut down, it takes at least 6 days to recover, in many cases longer. Closing a terminal even for a short period, a couple days, or even one day, or even half a day, has a devastating ripple effect throughout the entire supply chain. The impact reaches far inland, as cargo cannot be loaded on rail or trucks a thousand miles inland to begin the journey to the coasts. Warehouses and cold storage facilities, inland and by the ports, cannot move products out to the ships, and thus cannot accept newly arriving products. The ships cannot call on the ports, and must move on to the next port, leaving cargo stranded. Some products can wait for the congestion to clear, but other products, such as fresh products cannot, leading to millions of dollars of losses.”

According to American Shipper, “The ILA also called for a March in Washington,” which it said was to “protest job loss and the resulting negative impacts on America’s economy.”

Furthermore, Chris Dupin with American Shipper mentions that the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the National Industrial Transportatino League have both released statements urging the ILA, Management and the Government to work together to avoid a shutdown.

We encourage your opinions, questions, and comments.  Please send an email to I will gladly compile these together and post something. Please indicate if you choose to stay anonymous or wish to include your name and company name.

What is the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor? [Source]

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (WCNYH) is a regulatory agency in Port of New York in the United States. The state government entity of New York was established in August 1953. Under statutory mandate, the mission of the commission is to investigate, deter, combat and remedy criminal activity and influence in the port district and also ensures fair hiring and employment practices