Biden NLRB Gives Huge Boost to Shady ILA Union Bosses

For decades, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) union bosses have, as New York Daily News transit reporter Clayton Guse observed last March, “held a tight grip on who is hired” at seaports all along the East and Gulf Coasts of the U.S.

A number of years ago, the ILA was identified by the President’s Commission on Organized Crime as one of a handful of international unions with “histories of control or influence by organized crime.” And current ILA President Harold Daggett and his cohorts are today allegedly wielding their substantial control over prime port jobs to benefit people with, to quote Guse again, “direct connections to crime families or high-ranking ILA officials.”

The extensive monopoly privileges longshore union bosses like Daggett enjoy under federal law make it extremely difficult for federal law enforcement to root out corruption and cronyism in the ILA. One of the small number of powerful tools that proponents of honest unionism have long had at their disposal to fight back is the ban on secondary boycotts approved by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities of the U.S. House and Senate as part of the Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Since 1947, this provision of the amended NLRA has made it unlawful for union bosses who have a primary dispute with one employer to pressure a neutral employer to stop doing business with the first employer. It makes it substantially less easy for ILA and other shady union bosses to exploit their monopoly-bargaining power over many businesses to get control over the jobs of union-free workers who wish to remain that way.

Unfortunately, in 1980, a 5-4 majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices, acting at ILA lawyers’ behest, “reinterpreted” Congress’ ban on secondary boycotts, finding that Big Labor may bully a contracting employer to give it control over jobs not traditionally performed by union members if its aim is to avoid a reduction in the number of union jobs caused by “technological advances.” But until now, the secondary-boycott ban has

That all changed on December 16. In a radical decision that essentially gutted NLRA Sections 8(b) and 8(e), two ex-union lawyers appointed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2021 by President Joe Biden gave a green light to ILA bosses to sue any ocean carriers that dock at the new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in Charleston, S.C., for hundreds of millions of dollars for supposedly violating the union’s contract with them. (Trump appointee John Ring dissented from the 2-1 ruling.)

The ILA hierarchy’s clear motive in suing two carriers that have docked at Leatherman, and threatening to sue others if they do the same, is to bully South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) officials, with whom the union has no contract, to sell out union-free state employees who operate ship-to-shore cranes and other heavy-lift equipment at all three Charleston terminals, even as other front-line jobs are done by workers who are subject to ILA control.

While Leatherman employees are the ILA brass’ immediate target, Daggett and company openly admit their real goal is to eliminate the “hybrid model” under which some front-line longshore work has been done for roughly 50 years at East Coast ports located in Right to Work South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

According to Biden NLRB appointees David Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox, this is all perfectly okay, because ILA bigwigs’ goal is supposedly “work preservation,” not acquisition of control over additional employees, even though Prouty and Wilcox acknowledge no current ILA members will lose their jobs if the Leatherman Terminal is allowed to operate normally and ultimately expand!

This lawless ruling shouldn’t stand. Unfortunately, while SCPA President and CEO Barbara Melvin has appropriately denounced the Biden NLRB for legalizing secondary boycotts by bureaucratic fiat, and declared the SCPA will appeal the decision, there is a real danger that, before the federal judiciary has its final say, the pressure on Palmetto State public officials to cut a deal that undercuts the hybrid model and union-free workers’ interests will grow and grow.

Melvin and her colleagues must never forget that, as costly as the current ILA lawyer-enforced boycott of the Leatherman Terminal is to South Carolina employees and businesses is, a deal that puts Charleston’s successful hybrid model on the road to extinction would be even costlier and far more destructive.

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