Strong Kargo Global | NY-NJ port truckers prepare for potential disruption from hiring protest
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17 Jul NY-NJ port truckers prepare for potential disruption from hiring protest

Truckers that service the Port of New York and New Jersey are preparing for possible congestion and delays Monday tied to a planned protest on longshore hiring practices.

A New Jersey judge Friday outlined a strategy for the Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in which part of the port sits, to move ahead with a planned protest at what the mayor sees as the lack of local hiring, and diverse hiring, at the port.

An Essex County Judge ordered officials from Newark and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to “engage in good faith negotiations” to come up with a plan that complies with port authority permitting rules for a Monday morning motorcade through the port led by the mayor, according to a draft of the judge’s order provided to JOC.com by the City of Newark.

An Essex County Judge ordered officials from Newark and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to “engage in good faith negotiations” to come up with a plan that complies with port authority permitting rules for a Monday morning motorcade through the port led by the mayor, according to a draft of the judge’s order provided to JOC.com by the City of Newark.

The judge’s order says the court “retains the right to reopen this matter” Monday morning at 8.30 a.m. before Judge Walter Koprowski, Jr. if  “good faith negotiations for the (march) permit application fail.”

Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, said after a 1 p.m. Sunday phone conference with the Port Authority and other port interests, that the agency and city have agreed to a protest between 12 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. that is merely a motorcade moving through the port that doesn’t stop. He said 100 Port Authority police officers are expected to be on hand.

“If they do what they are meant to do, it could be a nothing,” said Bader, of the protestors. “We are cautiously optimistic that nothing is going to happen.”

Still, he said, the association is urging its members to keep away from the port at that time.

The court case was sparked by Baraka’s plan to hold a motorcade from city hall through the port about eight miles away Monday morning, after a press conference at city hall, to denounce what he says is “discrimination in hiring.”  Trucking leaders, however, are hoping to avoid any confrontation between the protestors and port workers and truckers.

The protest is the latest effort by the mayor to demand more benefits for his city from the port, and follows a march in the port organized by Baraka in May, to highlight his claims that the port hires too few minorities or local residents. In March, Baraka asked Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for a federal investigation of “severe racial, gender and ethnic inequality” in hiring at the ports, and “an apparent bias against the hiring of local residents,” and the case is pending.

The New York Shipping Association and International Longshoremen’s Association deny Baraka’s claims and say the racial percentages of ILA locals vary because of historical reasons but are in line with those of the metropolitan area.

The New York Shipping authority says that in 2012 about 65 percent of the 3157 longshoremen and checkers were white, 21 percent were African-American and 13 percent were Hispanic. Between 2014 and 2016, 34 percent of new hires were African American, 20.4 percent were Hispanic, and 42 percent were white, the shipping association says.

Since 2013, the New York Shipping Association has hired 71 residents of the city of Newark, which “makes up approximately 11 percent of all newly hired employees and is the highest percentage of newly hired employees from any city in New Jersey,” according to the association website.

The Port Authority held two conference calls Friday on the possible motorcade with port stakeholders, including the Association of Bi State Motor Carriers. The New York Shipping Association took part in at least one.  In response, the Association of Bi State Motor Carriers sent a message advising its members that there “may” be a protest, and  “recommended that all trucking companies limit their operations to first moves only on Monday and stay clear of the Demonstration if and when it occurs.”

“All parties agree that we do not want any confrontation between any of the port drivers or workers during the rally,” the message said, adding that “The Port Authority Police will be having a STRONG presence at the Port.”  The march in May caused consternation among some port users who questioned why the mayor was allowed to mount an event that could disrupt port business.

Bader, president of the Association, said Friday that aside from concerns about delays and congestion, the main issue is safety among the port community – especially if the protesters stop and hold a rally, instead of passing through the port.

“We don’t want any confrontation between any drivers and ILA workers and the protesters,” Bader said. “It’s 100 degrees outside. Tempers flare. We would rather not see it, especially if it can be avoided.”

A release from Baraka that came out Friday morning promoting the motorcade event said the gathering would demand “that the International Longshoremen’s Association end discriminatory practices in hiring,” and added that the protest would go ahead “despite efforts by the Port Authority to prevent the protest.”

“Participants will protest the union’s failure to address gender and ethnic inequalities in its hiring practices at the port,” the release said.

The Port Authority took the case to court and the two parties argued their cases Friday morning. It is unclear from the order exactly what the Port Authority sought in its legal action.

But it appears that the authority, which is the port landlord, was seeking to enforce its permitting process for an event within the agency’s jurisdiction.

Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority, declined to comment except to say that Molly Campbell, director of port commerce, and her staff are “are working this weekend to finalize a permit for the city’s event on Monday.”

The draft court order says that as part of the negotiations over a permit the Port Authority police and Newark Police must come up with a  safety plan.

The order says the “Port Authority retains the right to place in the permit reasonable time, place and manner restrictions which will be applicable to this demonstration. It adds that Newark must “comply with the Port Authority’s rules and regulations for expressive activity at Port Newark for this  demonstration.” However, the order says the port authority should “waive its requirement that defendants apply for a permit within 36 business hours of the anticipated demonstration.”

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