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ILA Gets Legal Win In Charleston Port Contract Dispute

Blog Introduction: The international longshoremen union (ILA) has won a significant legal victory in their dispute with the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) over the use of non-ILA labor at the new Hugh Leatherman terminal in Charleston. On July 23, 2021, an appeals court ruling affirmed the ILA’s legal right to enforce the master contract at the new port, which paves the way for better job security and wages for union workers.

The legal battle began in 2019 when the SCPA announced it would use non-ILA labor to help construct and operate the new Leatherman terminal. The ILA argued that the port breached the master contract, as it stipulates that all work performed in covered jurisdictions must be done by ILA workers. The union filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for South Carolina to halt construction but lost the case in March 2020.

The ILA appealed the decision, which led to the recent ruling in their favor by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court concluded that the master contract’s plain language applies to all new ports or terminals with new construction. Therefore, the SCPA must comply with the agreement and use union workers at the Leatherman terminal. The ruling also clarifies that the SCPA must reimburse ILA workers for wages and benefits lost due to the unauthorized use of non-ILA labor.

The ILA’s victory is a significant win for union workers and their labor supporters in South Carolina. The ruling not only affirms the importance of collective bargaining agreements but also the legal rights of workers to hold employers accountable for violating those agreements. More importantly, this ruling sets a precedent that applies to new ports or terminals with new construction regardless of location, ensuring better protection for union workers nationwide.

As expected, the SCPA disagrees with the appeals court’s ruling and is considering its options. The authority argues that the master contract only applied to existing piers and terminals at the Port of Charleston and that it never intended to violate any agreements with the ILA. However, the SCPA’s argument seems weak, given the master contract’s plain language and the fact that the SCPA deliberately chose to use non-ILA labor for the new Leatherman terminal.

In conclusion, the recent appeals court ruling in favor of the ILA over the SCPA is a significant legal win for union workers and should be celebrated as such. The ruling affirms the importance of collective bargaining agreements and the rights of workers to protect their jobs and wages. It also sets a precedent that applies to all new ports or terminals with new construction, ensuring better protection for union workers nationwide, not just in South Carolina. While the SCPA may appeal the ruling, the ILA’s victory should give hope to other unions and workers that collective bargaining agreements are not just words on paper, but legal instruments that guarantee fair treatment and protection in the workplace.

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