United States District Court for the District of New Jersey Dismisses the Amended Complaint Filed by the NYSA, MMMCA and ILA Against the Waterfront Commission
On August 28, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed the amended complaint filed by the New York Shipping Association (NYSA), Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association (MMMCA), International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO (ILA), and ILA Local 1804-1 and Local 1814 against the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The amended complaint alleged that the Commission was overstepping its statutory authority by requiring that hiring in the Port be done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, and that the Commission was improperly interfering with their collective bargaining rights by doing so. The amended complaint alleged that Section 5-p of the Waterfront Commission Act, which requires employers to certify that the selection of individuals to be hired was made in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, is unconstitutional.
The Court rejected these allegations, and found that the eradication of discrimination is, indeed, one of the purposes of the Waterfront Commission Act. The Court noted that while the Act safeguards collective bargaining rights, the protections are not absolute and cannot supersede the Commission’s supervisory role regarding practices that might lead to corruption. In this case, the Court found that the collectively bargained union referral process at issue could circumvent the purpose of the Act by shifting the burden of non-discriminatory hiring practices from the employers to the union, which are not subject to the Commission’s regulation.
Notably, the Court pointed that when Section 5-p of the Act was under consideration by the New York and New Jersey legislatures in 1999, the NYSA “unreservedly supported the pending bill and lauded the bill’s promise of guaranteeing the employment of a large number of minorities.” The NYSA had espoused the importance of increasing the number of minorities in waterfront labor, endorsing the legislation because it would make sure that future additions to the workforce contain a number of women, Blacks and Hispanics. The Court found that the NYSA-ILA Plaintiffs’ reversal of that recent position to be “puzzling.”
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 Commission to ensure that they abide by the spirit and the letter of the Act. Over the past sixty years, courts have consistently upheld the Commission’s actions when a collective bargaining agreement has violated the Act.
Today’s decision 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.
A copy of the Court's Opinion is attached.