Charleston, SC – Members of an International Longshoremen’s Association local that represents approximately 14,500 workers voted to approve a strike at Port of Charleston docks last week, but workers have not yet walked off the job, officials said.
The local labor contract is separate from the master contract ratified last year by the ILA and US Maritime Alliance.
Kenneth Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 said it is not unusual for a union to authorize a strike at this point in the process and there is not imminent threat of a strike, and that it has requested federal arbitration.
“The strike vote gives us the authorization if it comes to that,” he said. “We don’t anticipate that, and we are nowhere near that. The ILA remains optimistic and is hoping for similar outcome this time around. With that in mind, the ILA has invited the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to assist to break the stalemate.”
The longshoremen’s union has not taken action to halt cargo movement at the local marine terminals, according to Billy Adams Jr., executive director of the South Carolina Stevedore Association.
Adams said that ILA workers have threatened to walk off the docks in the past.
Riley said the ILA has been trying to negotiate with the South Carolina Stevedore Association for a new labor contract, noting its membership has rejected the employer’s “best and final offer.” The ILA is reportedly pushing for higher pensions and to perform work currently handled by state ports authority employees.
“Management was asked to give them their best and final offer,” Adams said. “We were still in negotiations when they asked for our best and final offer.”