Amicus brief: ILA union strategy to gain control over all jobs at Charleston, SC’s Leatherman Terminal will likely lead to termination of 270 port workers

Washington, DC (October 27, 2023) – Today, the National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In the case, the SCPA is challenging International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) union officials’ legal gambit to gain control of all port jobs at Charleston, SC’s Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal. Foundation staff attorneys emphasize that the union’s scheme will throw 270 nonunion port workers out of their jobs unless the Court intervenes.

The SCPA is battling the Biden NLRB’s December 2022 ruling permitting ILA union bosses, pursuant to a legally dubious monopoly arrangement they have with the United States Maritime Exchange (USMX), to file lawsuits to prevent cargo carriers from docking at Leatherman until the union gains control of crane lift equipment jobs at the facility. State employees, who are free from the union’s control, have performed this work for SCPA since Leatherman opened in March 2021, and for decades at the other port facilities.

The Foundation, a nonprofit legal organization that provides free legal aid to workers facing compulsory unionism abuses, informs the Justices in its amicus brief that allowing ILA union bosses to succeed in enforcing their alleged monopoly will lead to unconscionable consequences for the Leatherman port workers.

“In short, the decisions below, if affirmed, will cause grievous harm to 270 non-union Ports Authority workers and their families,” the brief reads. “The Foundation submits this brief to provide a voice for the otherwise voiceless non-union Ports Authority workers, so the Court has a clear view of the stakes involved for the workers and their families if the decisions below stand.”

Union’s Aggressive Pursuit of Monopoly Power Harms Workers, Breaks Federal Labor Law

The brief spells out the dire consequences of the ILA union’s maneuver for Leatherman’s 270 state employees, who are protected by state law from monopoly union control. It explains that South Carolina spent over $1 billion to develop the terminal, but the ILA union’s scheme, if allowed to continue, would require South Carolina to both fire all the nonunion state employees of the port, and turn control of crane jobs over to a private contractor with an ILA union contract.

The devastating effects for current employees wouldn’t stop there if the ILA is victorious in the case. The brief points out that, even if fired state workers were to seek new employment at Leatherman with a private contractor under the union’s control, the ILA would likely prioritize its existing workers far above the former state workers because of union seniority provisions and hiring hall referral rules.

Additionally, the brief points out that the ILA union’s enforcement of its alleged monopoly violates the explicit prohibition on secondary boycotts in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is responsible for enforcing. Further, by granting the ILA control over the jobs of state employees who have never chosen to affiliate with the ILA, the NLRB is undermining the NLRA’s fundamental premise of employee free choice – the rule that “the employees pick the union; the union does not pick the employees.”

ILA Union Has History of Malfeasance and Exploitation

The brief discusses the many reasons why these South Carolina public employees would want to avoid associating with the ILA, including the union’s track record of corruption. The New York Daily News reported in 2022 that ILA chiefs negotiated deals by which mob-linked longshoremen in the New York/New Jersey area could get paid for 27 hours of “work” per day. The ILA hierarchy organized such arrangements while trying to shut down ports like Leatherman, which merely allow both unionized and union-free workers to work side-by-side.

“In their effort to maintain and expand their stranglehold on port employment all across the East Coast, ILA union bosses are putting the livelihoods of hundreds of Leatherman employees in jeopardy – employees who work side-by-side with unionized workers at Leatherman and have done nothing wrong,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Supreme Court must reverse the Biden NLRB’s erroneous ruling letting this union gambit move forward, bearing in mind that the real victims here are the nonunion port workers whose jobs ILA officials want to seize.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Oct 27, 2023 in News Releases