ILA President slams FMC’s Sola for ‘unwarranted attack’ on Charleston workers during labour talks

Charleston, SC, USA - July 17, 2021: Ship-to-shore cranes capable of working the largest cargo ships calling on the east coast of the United States sit at Hugh K. Leatherman terminal, which opened in 2021 on the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.

The President of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has written to President Biden slamming Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola for recent comments made during labour talks at the Port of Charleston.

President Harold J. Daggett sharply criticised Sola for his “disparaging comments about the ILA” in a letter the commissioner wrote to Biden on 23 June.

Sola previously wrote that he was “shocked” that the Hugh K. Leatherman terminal, opened in March 2021 and based in Charleston, was being underutilised due to the ILA dispute – and called on the White House to examine the situation in South Carolina.

The Hugh K. Leatherman terminal is expected to handle 2.4 million TEU year-on-year; however Sola lamented that this capacity is yet to be realised as the labour dispute remains before the US National Labor Relations Board.

The ILA leader told President Biden that his FMC Commissioner engaged in anti-labour and anti-union tactics in accursing the ILA of blocking the utilisation of the Leatherman Terminal at the Port of Charleston, contributing to port congestion and pollution caused by idling ships.

President Daggett called on Biden to reject Commissioner Sola’s request for Presidential intervention in the pending dispute.

“ILA-represented workers continue to work hard every day in order to move cargo expeditiously through the port of Charleston,” said ILA President Daggett. “There have been no slowdowns or job actions at Leatherman Terminal or anywhere else in the port of Charleston.”

President Daggett noted to Biden that the ILA in the Port of Charleston was responsible for reducing a backlog of 30 container vessels waiting off the coast of Charleston in February 2022 to nearly zero ships today.

“His misunderstanding that the matter involves a right-to-work issue makes clear that federal labour law is not within the FMC’s jurisdiction or competence,” President Daggett noted.

SC Ports has broken record after record for containers handled at the Port of Charleston, with May marking the 15th consecutive month of cargo records driven by sustained retail imports.

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