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The International Longshoremen's Association has appointed a trustee to oversee operations of local chapter No. 1422 following a dispute over whether the union's office at 1142 Morrison Drive should be sold. File/Staff

National labor officials are running the union that represents dock workers at the Port of Charleston amid a dispute over whether the International Longshoremen's Association office on Morrison Drive should be sold.

Jim McNamara, spokesman for the union's headquarters in Bergen, N.J., confirmed the trusteeship Wednesday following weeks of rumors that ILA Local 1422 is experiencing turmoil over the proposed property sale. McNamara would not say why the main office appointed a trustee to run the local chapter.

Ken Riley, the suspended president of Local 1422, declined to comment Wednesday. He referred questions to Virgil Maldonado, who was appointed trustee of the Charleston office. Maldonado, who normally runs the ILA chapter in Bayonne, N.J., could not be reached for comment.

The changes have had no impact on day-to-day operations at the Port of Charleston, according to Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority.

"We have an excellent partnership with the ILA and have no issues," Newsome said.

The proposed sale of the Morrison Drive property has been a contentious issue between Riley and a majority of the union's dock workers.

Riley has been pushing to sell the union hall for $25 million and move the headquarters to a former medical equipment manufacturer's site off Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.

Hill-Rom building

Ken Riley, president of the International Longshoremen's Association No. 1422, wants to move the union's dock workers to the former Hill-Rom building in North Charleston. David Wren/Staff

ILA members have voted several times against the sale, saying the proposed new site is too far from the port's terminals, has limited access and is in poor condition.

Riley appealed the membership's votes this summer to the national office, which nullified the election and later appointed Maldonado as trustee.

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Riley told The Post and Courier in June that the property sale "will have a significant impact on the future of the ILA and the business it conducts on behalf of this (maritime) industry."

There are several reasons a trustee could be appointed to oversee a local chapter, according to the ILA's constitution. They range from corruption and financial malpractice to assuring the performance of collective bargaining agreements.

Trusteeships usually last up to 18 months and can involve internal investigations and possibly turning control of the local office over to national officials for a longer term.

The ILA's local No. 1422 has roughly 500 members, according to the Center for Union Facts. Its members load and unload cargo on container ships and car carriers. Separate ILA chapters provide mechanics, clerks and inspectors to the port.

The 31,640-square foot Morrison Drive building on nearly 4.5 acres remains active on several area real estate sales websites. It's near technology businesses, breweries, restaurants and new apartments in a growing part of Charleston known as NoMo, a nod to its north Morrison Drive location. 

The building was designed by architect Harvey Gantt, the son of a Charleston shipyard worker who graduated from Burke High School and became the first black student to be admitted to Clemson University. He later was elected mayor of Charlotte and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_