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THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF THE FEDERAL COMPLAINT FILED BY THE NEW YORK SHIPPING ASSOCIATION, INC., METROPOLITAN MARINE MAINTENANCE CONTRACTORS’ ASSOCIATION, INC., INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN’S ASSOCIATION, AFL-CIO, AND ILA LOCALS AGAINST THE WATERFRONT COMMISSION OF NEW YORK HARBOR

AUGUST 30, 2016

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the federal complaint filed by the New York Shipping Association, Inc., the Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors’ Association, Inc., the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO, and various ILA locals against the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The complaint alleged that the Waterfront Commission was overstepping its statutory authority by requiring that hiring in the Port of New York-New Jersey be done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. They also alleged that the Commission was improperly interfering with their collective bargaining rights by doing so.

Two years ago, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey rejected these allegations, and found that the eradication of discrimination is, indeed, one of the purposes of the Waterfront Commission Compact. The court noted that while the Compact safeguards collective bargaining rights, the protections are not absolute and cannot supersede the Waterfront Commission’s supervisory role regarding practices that might lead to corruption. The court dismissed the complaint in its entirety.

In their appeal, the ILA, NYSA and MMMCA continued to insist that even though the Waterfront Commission was formed to combat corrupt hiring practices, such practices did not include the purposeful exclusion of racial minorities. And consequently, that the Waterfront Commission cannot require them to certify that their hiring practices comply with federal and state laws dealing with equal opportunity. They argued that the Waterfront Commission’s actions violated national labor policy by dictating the terms of their collective bargaining agreements, and interfered with their “freedom of choice in the selection of employees.”

Today, the Third Circuit found these arguments to be “meritless,” and questioned, “Can it seriously be argued that racial discrimination in hiring (or anywhere, for that matter), is not a corrupt practice?” The Circuit Court unequivocally found that “the Commission’s actions in requiring certification that prospective employees were selected in a nondiscriminatory manner certainly further the Compact’s purposes of rooting out corrupt hiring practices such as racial discrimination.” In doing so, the Third Circuit agreed with the Waterfront Commission that any hiring framework which gives the ILA the exclusive right to recruit and select potential employees to be referred is no better than the shape-up system of old. And therefore, that the Commission was not unlawfully interfering with any collective bargaining rights by implementing certification requirements. The court found, in short, that “where actions are not in further of the original purposes of the Compact, collective bargaining rights may be infringed upon.”

When this lawsuit was first instituted, the Waterfront Commission harshly criticized the NYSA and MMMCA for failing to represent the interests of their members and to fight for the employers’ right to have a say in who they hire, and for instead standing united with the ILA to fight the Commission’s efforts to ensure fair hiring. By joining in this lawsuit, the NYSA, in particular, definitively demonstrated that it no longer represents the interests of its terminal operator members but, rather, that of the ILA.

Since the enactment of the Act in 1953, the NYSA and ILA – disgruntled by its limiting effect on their perceived absolute collective bargaining rights to engage in conduct that promotes discriminatory hiring practices – have challenged virtually every attempt by the Waterfront Commission to ensure that they abide by the spirit and the letter of the Act. Over the past sixty-three years, courts have consistently upheld the Commission’s actions when a collective bargaining agreement has violated the Act.

This lawsuit was just one more desperate attempt to attack the Waterfront Commission’s efforts to ensure that hiring on the waterfront is done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. Today’s decision once again sends the clear and unmistakable message to the ILA, NYSA and MMMCA that their attempts to institutionalize discrimination through collective bargaining agreements will not be tolerated. This decision is a significant victory for the Waterfront Commission and, more importantly, for the Port.

Attached is a copy of the Court’s Opinion. PDF
Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor