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FreightWaves explores the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

In this week’s edition, from the March 1977 issue of American Shipper, FreightWaves looks back at a letter from publisher David A. Howard discussing possible dockworker strikes. 

Will dockworkers strike on March 7?

I don’t know. My crystal ball is no better than yours.

But my hunch is that they will not. The hint of a strike which International Longshoremen’s Association President Thomas W. Gleason aired early in February was probably a “message” — not a threat. 

Nevertheless, it served a purpose for the ILA and for CONASA, the management group which sets the master contract followed by most labor/management contracts along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. 

Gleason served notice that he would consider the present contract (negotiated in the Spring of 1974) canceled due to the Supreme Court’s action refusing to consider and possibly reverse the lower court decisions tossing out the 50-mile Container Rule. He notified CONASA (the Council of North Atlantic Shipping Associations) that the union would “take such action as it deems appropriate” on or after March 7.

Such words are usually reserved for threats of strike action, but no one is acting really concerned — except to acknowledge that the possibility is there. 

Gleason is proud of the fact the 1974 contract was written in advance and a strike was avoided for the first time in many years. He considers it the crowning achievement of a long career in the union. Furthermore, it was announced months ago that the ILA and CONASA would begin talks April 1 in hope of writing a new contract before June 30, a full three months before the present contract expires on September 30, assuring continuity of shipping operations. 

It seems unlikely, therefore, that Gleason will do more than “send a message” March 7 just to remind everyone that the ILA can shut down the ports if he chooses to do so. It is even possible that he will allow the men to stage a token walkout on the basis of “no contract, no work.” But if they do, I would guess Gleason will get them back on the job within a few hours, a day at most. 

ILA and CONASA have scheduled formal talks on the present contract reopening situation at the Americana Hotel in Miami Beach starting March 5. So hold your breath. Come March 7-8, Gleason could announce the men are going out — or that they are not going out. 

The main thing, we imagine, is that you hold your breath. And while you are holding it, think twice about shipping goods through consolidators who operate with non-ILA labor. 

Under terms of the ILA/Management contract, shippers are going to pay a guaranteed annual income to longshoremen whether they use the ILA labor or not. It’s written into the contracts, and carriers must pass it along somehow. So why pay twice for the same work? Gleason would like you to think about it while you hold your breath.

Click here to read the entire March 1977 issue.

Editor’s note: While a strike did not take place on March 7, 1977, it did in fact take place for 44 days beginning in October of that year.

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The post A look back at 1977: Will dockworkers strike? appeared first on FreightWaves.

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