In a Labor Day demonstration, Philadelphia union dock workers dumped cases of Del Monte pineapples into the Delaware River today to protest Del Monte's decision to switch its banana shipping business to a different port.
The International Longshoremen's Association Local 1291 will lose 200 to 300 jobs - 400,000 labor hours a year - when Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. shifts 75 ships and a half million tons of banana cargo from Camden to the privately-owned Gloucester Terminals L.L.C., which pays workers less.
The protest, at Penn's Landing, came as Philadelphia's labor community was heading to the site for its yearly picnic, following the annual parade along Columbus Boulevard.
The ILA union says the Gloucester workers are paid below industry standards - between $12 and $17 an hour, some with no benefits.
With concessions that the union offered Del Monte to keep the business, dock and terminal workers would have earned $21.50 to $22.50 an hour, down from a top rate of $31 an hour.
Leo Holt, whose family runs the Gloucester facility as well as the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia, said in an earlier interview that Del Monte's move had "nothing to do with labor, and everything to do with having a facility that is up to the modern levels of capacity and abilities" Del Monte needs.
Holt declined to discuss wages but said his employees earn more than $12 an hour.
The bananas had been shipped into the South Jersey Port Corp., which runs the Broadway and Beckett Street Terminals in Camden.
For example, a Del Monte vessel entering and departing Camden's Broadway terminal needs two tugs, Holt said. At Gloucester, they'll need one tug to dock and none to leave.
Del Monte will continue to pay $1.4 million to the South Jersey Port Corp. until 2020 when its lease expires, but its agreement with Delaware River Stevedores, which employs Local 1291 members, ends in December. Del Monte and the union had had a 20-year relationship, the union said.
Del Monte's decision would cut union hours at ports in Philadelphia, Camden and Wilmington by about 25 percent. Messages left for Del Monte officials were unreturned by this morning.