FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The the Victimization of the International Longshoremen’s Association

by DAVID MACARAY

If there was ever an anachronistic government body waiting to be placed in mothballs, it’s the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. Established way back in 1953, the WCNYH was tasked with keeping mobsters from infiltrating the docks. That was its sole responsibility.

But that was 60 long years ago. Ike was president. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was still destroying lives. The Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. Elvis Presley hadn’t cut a record yet. Admittedly, a different era.

Surprisingly, the WCNYH is still alive and kicking. In fact, the ILA and New York Shipping Association (NYSA, representing port employers) are locked in a dispute with the WCNYH over the hiring of some 680 new employees. While the ILA and their employers want these people hired quickly and put to work in order to maintain the competitive position of the New Jersey/New York ports, the WCNYH insists on lengthy background checks to make sure job applicants don’t have mob ties.

This might have been a productive exercise back in the days of the Marlon Brando movie, On the Waterfront (1954), which depicted mobsters (Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly) running roughshod over the longshoremen’s union, but those days are over.

Not only are unions, by and large, wildly democratic and corruption-free (even the Teamsters now adhere to the “one man, one vote” configuration), but the WCNYH ain’t exactly the committee you want to put in charge of such an investigation.

In 2009, the New York Times (August 8, 2009) reported that the New York State Inspector General, following a two-year investigation, had found “extensive illegal, corrupt and unethical behavior on the part of the Waterfront Commission.” As a consequence, the majority of the WCNYH’s executive staff were fired. That’s not something you want to see in an oversight committee.

But the part that disturbs outside observers is the role of the government. Its role should be to assist and support working people, not impede them from landing decent jobs in this post-recessionary economy. When it comes to labor relations, it’s bad enough having a woefully under-staffed and over-worked NLRB unable to crack down on management violations, but when the WCNYH comports itself like a textbook example of your classic, self-absorbed bureaucracy, it rankles.

Consider that old maxim: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is going to look like a nail to you.” Unfortunately, that mentality seems to be the mind-set of the WCNYH. Just as the Spanish Inquisition was dedicated to exposing infidels, and the HUAC rejoiced in identifying people as “Commies,” the WCNYH was created solely to ferret out mobsters.

And the Commission is going to do its damnedest to find them, even if they don’t exist, and even if it means stalling a process that desperately needs to be expedited. While no one is conflating the Waterfront Commission with HUAC, let’s do the math. When HUAC ran out of Commies and “Comsymps” (Communist sympathizers), it ceased to exist. Accordingly, when the WCNYH runs out of waterfront mobsters, it will also cease to exist, and these bureaucrats are going to have to go out and find real jobs.

The president of the AFL-CIO’s transportation trades council has viewed the matter to be sufficiently serious to warrant writing personally to Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, asking them to intervene in the dispute. While the early signs (for a multitude of reasons) have not been especially promising, this thing has a ways to go. One hopes common sense comes to the rescue.

If government agencies wish to address corruption and fraud, more power to them. We all agree that eliminating corruption is a good thing. But if they are truly serious about such an endeavor, instead of sniffing around the docks, they should do it right. They should set up shop on Wall Street.

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail