Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Longshoremen’s Association Linked to Lack of Diversity, Crime, and Corruption

Years of reports detailing mob influence at ports in New York and New Jersey have finally been released by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The reports had been kept under wraps for years out of fear that they would drive away business. Now public, these documents describe how the International Longshoremen’s Association’s (ILA) control “over hiring in the Port for over 60 years has not only led to a lack of diversity and inclusion in waterfront employment, but also to the perpetuation of criminality and corruption.”

According to the reports, “very little progress has been made in diversifying the registered deep sea longshore workers in the respective ILA locals.” The majority of Black workers are placed into one predominantly Black local, ILA Local 1233 in Newark, New Jersey. Highly-sought positions are primarily given to white males, who become members of ILA Local 1. 85 percent of ILA Local 1’s members are white, with only 7 percent Black and 7 percent Hispanic. For comparison, almost 86 percent of ILA Local 1233’s registered longshore members are Black.

The reports, which date back to 2013, suggest this segregated system is due in large part to how “sweetheart jobs were steered to friends and family” and raised questions about systematic exclusion by the ILA.

That’s not all. According to the documents, between 2019-2020, 590 people received over $147 million in “outsized salaries not required by the industry’s collective bargaining agreement and for hours they do not even have to be at the Port.” In fact, nearly 20 individuals were paid more than $450,000 a year for a job that “did not require them to show up to work.” Then, there’s the connections to organized crime. Between 2019-2020, “eleven alleged members and associates of the Genovese crime family…were charged with racketeering for reaping millions of dollars in criminal profits through loansharking, illegal check cashing, gambling and money laundering in the Port district, including laundering of proceeds from narcotics trafficking.”

Under the ILA’s control, countless qualified community members were “systematically denied the opportunity to work on the waterfront.” Instead, those connected to union leadership or organized crime figures reaped the benefits of lucrative salaries for doing next to nothing. Last year, ILA representatives agreed to establish basic transparent hiring procedures and recordkeeping protocols for the union. The real shock is how the union got away without these systems in place for so long.

Even after decades of attempted reform, it’s clear the ILA has a harmful and undue influence at the waterfront. Only time will tell if the commission’s continued efforts to weed out corruption and organized crime will be successful.


Categories: Crime & Corruption