Longshoremen shut down the Port of New York and New Jersey and Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia Tuesday to protest Del Monte Fresh Produce Co.'s move from Camden to a cheaper-labor terminal in Gloucester City.
Pickets by members of the International Longshoremen's Association forced work stoppages at four ocean terminals in Port Elizabeth, Newark, and Bayonne, N.J. and Staten Island, N.Y., idling 12 ships and costing each carrier about $50,000 a day, said the New York Shipping Association.
"We haven't had anything like this is over 25 years," said spokeswoman Beverly Fedorko. "Think about the ripple effect, the trucks, and all the other companies that depend on the port for their livelihood, and the 270,000 employees. It's quite an economic reach."
Port officials expected facilities to reopen Wednesday, Fedorko said.
Members of ILA Local 1291 in Philadelphia picketed at Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, and prevented the unloading of a Hamburg Sud container ship. Longshoremen reported for work at 7 a.m., encountered the pickets, and would not enter.
The Ports of the Delaware River Marine Trade Association, and Greenwich Terminals L.L.C., operator at Packer Avenue, filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board to get the men back to work.
The New York Shipping Association went to federal court in Newark, where U.S. District Judge Dickerson R. Debevoise issued a temporary injunction, ordering the workers to return.
"Longshore workers are refusing to cross picket lines established by longshore workers from Philadelphia and perhaps other outside locations who are reportedly protesting certain actions taken by an employer in Philadelphia," Joseph C. Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, said in a written statement.
"These actions by the ILA, in refusing to cross a non-bona fide line, are a violation of the no-strike clause of our current collective bargaining agreement," Curto said.
The ILA was protesting Del Monte's decision to break a 20-year agreement with the ILA in Philadelphia and transfer 75 ships and a half-million tons of perishable cargo annually out of Camden to a non-ILA facility in Gloucester City, owned by the Holt family which also run Packer Avenue Marine Terminal.
"We're here to protest the Del Monte deal across the river, plus we are out here because of what Tommy Holt and his family are pulling against all longshoremen," said Clyde Mort, 56, a longshoreman for 35 years, from South Philadelphia.
"The Holt family is trying to take over the waterfront, trying to knock out the unions," Mort said. "I work up and down the waterfront, but most of my work was over at Del Monte."
Keith Collins, 38, a union longshoreman for 15 years, from Williamstown, said the decision "to replace us with cheap labor has affected many people, many families, around this neighborhood. It's cost about 200 people their jobs."
Thomas Holt Jr., whose family runs Packer Avenue and owns Gloucester Terminals L.L.C. where Del Monte is going, said Greenwich Terminals in South Philadelphia "is one of the largest ILA employers on the river, and we work extremely hard, traveling the world, to get cargo for that terminal."
"Case in point is the auto business," Holt said, referring to the 23,342 Hyundai and Kia cars arriving at the port since August. "We worked extremely hard to bring that in here."
As for accusations that Holt terminals are antiunion, "that's just ILA rhetoric," Holt said.
"Greenwich Terminals has great people, and great ILA people. We just need management and the leadership of the labor to get together and move this port forward, as opposed to going backward. There are great things this port can do, if management and labor leadership work together."