January 29, 2016 - Thousands of longshoremen in New York and New Jersey walked off the job on Friday, grinding activity at the busiest ports on the East Coast to a halt and threatening to disrupt the delivery of goods across the region.
The walkout surprised many involved in the operation of the ports, according to officials, and the reasons behind the move were not immediately clear.
News of the work stoppage came in an alert issued by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which acts as a landlord for the ports but does not control daily operations.
"Due to the current work stoppage in the port, no new trucks will be allowed to queue on port roadways,"the alert said. "Do not send trucks to the Port at this time."
Officials with the New York Shipping Association, which runs the ports, could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for the association who spoke to Bloomberg News said the group was "trying to understand the reason for what appears to be a walkout and will take every measure available to ensure work resumes."
The International Association of Longshoremen, the union representing port workers, also could not be reached for comment, but a representative of the union told a local radio station that the dispute centered on hiring practices.
Jim McNamara of the International Longshoreman's Association told 1010 WINS radio news on Friday that the dispute was focused on the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which was created in 1953 to combat corruption at the ports.
In recent years, the union representing port workers has battled with the commission on a variety of hiring issues.
"The I.L.A. and the New York Shipping Association - our employers, it's not just the workers, but also the owners of the companies that generate the jobs and generates money for the economy - both sides have been fighting the Waterfront Commission, especially in the last five years, over the right to bring new workers on, the right to operate their ports the way they think they should be operated,"Mr. McNamara said in the radio interview.
"They've had enough, they told me they're taking this action to demonstrate their displeasure," he said.
The commissioners of Waterfront Commission are appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey.
Work stopped at Port Newark, the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal, the Howland Hook Marine Terminal, and the Port Jersey Port Authority Marine Terminal. The only port that remained in operation as of Friday afternoon was in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Together, the ports provide the key gateway to one of the busiest consumer corridors in the world.
Within an hour of the walkout, which took place at 11 a.m., lines of trucks were already beginning to clog roadways and containers were stacking up.
In 2014, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled 3,342,286 cargo containers with some $200 billion in goods.
People familiar with the operation of the port system said there had been brief work stoppages in the past but could not recall a similar mass walkout in recent years.
If the dispute continues for an extended period of time, its effects could be felt along the East Coast.
BDP International is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to provide updates as the situation develops.
Source: The New York Times