Pro Worker Freedom Org Criticizes Fourth Circuit Decision Granting Union Power to Kick Out Non-Union Workers at Charleston’s Leatherman Terminal

On July 28, 2023, The National Right to Work Foundation criticized the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 decision in South Carolina Ports Authority v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The decision maintained an NLRB reversal of an Administrative Law Judge’s ruling that the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) union’s actions acted in violation of federal law.

In adopting the Biden NLRB’s broad definition of “work preservation,” the Court of Appeals decision has approved the ILA union’s plan to sue any carrier that tries to utilize Charleston, SC’s Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal until the union takes control of every job at the port.

Foundation President Mark Mix published the following statement criticizing the ruling:

By accepting the NLRB’s contorted definition of ‘work preservation’ to allow ILA union officials to gain control over port jobs that have never been under union control, the 2-1 Fourth Circuit decision has put the jobs of hundreds of union-free South Carolina state employees at Charleston’s Leatherman Terminal on the chopping block. It is outrageous that these jobs, created with the investment of over $1 billion in South Carolina taxpayer dollars, will now be handed over to ILA union bosses to protect their monopoly on port jobs that stretches from Texas to Maine. 

The South Carolina state port workers at Leatherman Terminal, whose jobs are under attack because of this decision, should reach out to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid so they can explore their full legal options to defend their jobs and work opportunities.

 In the South Carolina Ports Authority v. NLRB, lawsuit the Port Authority is taking on the Biden NLRB’s ruling that approved the ILA’s scheme to take control of the Leatherman Terminal’s crane lift equipment jobs. State employees not under the union’s control currently do that work. Furthermore, those state employees have carried out this work for the Port Authority form multiple years.

The Foundation is a non-profit legal organization that provides free legal aid to employees being subjected to compulsory union abuses. It filed a legal brief in the case back in April, where it highlighted that “the inevitable result of the National Labor Relations Board’s erroneous 2-1 decision will be devastating to Charleston, South Carolina port workers who have chosen to work as non-union employees for the State of South Carolina or its Port Authority.”

The brief detailed the consequences of the ILA union’s move for Leatherman’s 270 state employees, who receive protection from state law from forced unionization. It detailed how South Carolina spent over $1 billion to build the terminal. However, because of ILA’s vigorous attempts to enforce its alleged monopoly at the port, “the only way for South Carolina’s $1 billion Leatherman Terminal to be usable would be for the State to turn the facility over to a private employer with an ILA contract and discharge the 270 State employees.”

The brief made the case that the negative effects for current employees wouldn’t stop there if the ILA came out victorious in the case. The brief called attention to how if fired state workers were to pursue new employment at Leatherman with a private contractor being controlled by the union, the ILA would prioritize those workers well below current union members due to union seniority provisions and hiring hall referral regulations.

As the brief called attention to, the ILA union has a long track record of exploitation. Per a New York Daily News report in 2022, ILA bosses negotiated deals that allowed mob-connected longshoremen in the New York/New Jersey area to receive payment for 27 hours of “work” per day. The ILA hierarchy established such arrangements while attempting to close ports such as Leatherman which allow both unionized and non-union workers to work alongside each other. 

Unions once had a place in an industrial epoch where shady corporate bosses abused their workers on the regular. However, these institutions have outlived their usefulness and have become parasitic at best. As a result, policymakers must take steps to limit their influence as much as possible through right to work legislation and other ventures that see union leadership be sharply undermined. 

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