A dockworkers’ labor dispute in Charleston could results in union members picketing Monday outside the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps in Virginia, and the Naval Weapons Station in North Charleston.
The International Longshoremen’s Association is upset that out-of-state workers, who may belong to a different union, are expected to be hired instead of ILA members for a 10-day job loading ammunition onto a ship for the Marines.
The union normally handles all military cargo and ammunition in Charleston, according to Ken Riley, president of the ILA’s Local 1422 in Charleston and the state AFL-CIO, which represents multiple unions.
“Whether you’re in a union or not, I don’t think it’s prudent to bring in workers from another state to do work that South Carolinians could do,” Riley said. “We want to discourage this from happening in the future.”
He said union officials have been working for months to try to resolve the labor jurisdiction issue with the Marine Corps, without success.
The ILA apparently has gotten the ear of at least one elected official, however. Capt. Kendra N. Motz, a media officer with the Marine Corps, said the corps has received questions about the issue from an unidentified member of Congress.
Motz said the Marine Corps would not answer any questions until the member of Congress’ questions are answered, which might not be until next week.
The union pickets are expected to go up Monday morning as the ship Lewis & Clark, out of Jacksonville, Fla., begins loading pallets of ammunition in North Charleston.
A Jacksonville company, Portus, is handling the job as part of a contract to load ammunition for the Marine Corps in its home town, according to Riley.
Portus’ workers include members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, but that union indicated it will not cross ILA picket lines.
According to the union, IUOE Local 673 representing crane operators at Portus Stevedoring in Jacksonville has informed the company on at least two occasions that IUOE members are not to be assigned work in Charleston.
“Local 673 is not and will not infringe on any other union’s jurisdiction,” said Travis Simmons, business manager of IUOE Local 673. “We pride ourselves in taking care of our own area and will support a sister union in any way possible, but would not deliberately violate the rules regarding jurisdiction.”
Repeated attempts to reach officials at Portus have been unsuccessful.
“We have had a long, long relationship with the military and have performed with great efficiencies over the years,” Riley said. “This is highly unusual, and we are trying to find answers.”
Riley said longshoremen from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida will join in the picketing on behalf of ILA locals 1422, 1422-A and 1771.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.
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