In a significant victory for the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the ratification of a six-year master contract for dockworkers on 9 April was backed by every ILA local union and approved overwhelmingly by 88 per cent of the more than 8, 000 ILA members who voted at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
The master contract was negotiated by the ILA, which is affiliated to the AFL-CIO, and the United States Maritime Alliance of shippers, terminal operators and port authorities. It calls for wages increases, a speedier graduation for new members to achieve the top rate of pay, and full protection at no cost to them for their national health care plan. Management and the ILA will also explore ways to recapture traditional ILA jobs.
It is regarded by the ILA as a major success for their chief negotiator, Harold J. Daggett, who directed his first wage scale negotiations since being elected president of the 35, 000 member union in July 2011. He had vowed then to fight aggressively against ILA members being displaced by automation and new technology; to recapture ILA jobs lost to a weakening of jurisdictional language; to end outsourcing of traditional ILA work; and to improve and protect ILA members’ wages, health benefits, safety and training.
Harold Daggett commented: “This master contract and the formation of the ILA steering committee mean that the ILA is now well positioned for the future to serve our members and our industry. We can better help employers and port areas to improve productivity and profits, as the shipping world eagerly awaits increases in cargo volume with the widening of the Panama Canal and the expansion of worldwide trade.”
Plans to form an ILA steering committee aim to boost and expand the ILA’s organising efforts in both the United States and foreign ports. This will reinforce its solidarity with two affiliated worldwide labour bodies, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Dockers Council (IDC), and reaffirm its solidarity with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
The committee will also examine ILA affiliations with the AFL-CIO, Maritime Trades Department and Transportation Trades Department to make certain it has a strong and influential voice within them.
ITF dockers’ section secretary Sharon James commented: “We congratulate Harold and the ILA on this significant success for their longshoremen. We look forward to working ever more closely with them as they strengthen and expand their organising efforts.”