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Dockers’ union leader wins prestigious Admiral of the Ocean Sea award

31 Oct 2022

International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) President Harold J Daggett, one of the largest ITF Dockers’ affiliates, has been presented with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) award in recognition of his lifelong work for waterfront workers.

Harold began his ILA career as a mechanic, moving on to foreman and then holding numerous elected positions as he rose the ranks of the union. A third generation ILA member, he was elected International President of the ILA in 2011 and has been re-elected twice since – most recently in 2019. Harold serves as chief negotiator for the ILA in contract bargaining with the major US East Coast and Gulf port owners. In this role he represents 70,000 ILA members in port areas from Maine to Texas, Great Lakes region, Puerto Rico, major U.S. Rivers and Eastern and Central Canada.

Mr Daggett was recognized in a ceremony held by the USS at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on 28 October, where he was awarded the AOTOS, along with two others maritime leaders: Edward W Aldridge, President of CMA-CGM North America and American President Lines; and Eric P Ebeling, President and CEO of American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group.

For more than 50 years, the United Seamen’s Service (USS) has been bestowing this illustrious award on individuals and organisations who have shown outstanding support for American seafarers and the US maritime industry.

“I have known Harold as a friend and a brother for many years,” said Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and ITF Dockers’ Section Chair, “Few are more deserving of this award than Harold. His dedication has seen a generation of dockers secure their jobs with decent pay and working conditions. Among his many achievements, Harold negotiated protection of US East Coast dockers’ jobs from automation all the way through to September 2024. A remarkable deal secured by a remarkable leader.”

Harold Daggett has been presented with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) award in recognition of his lifelong work for waterfront workers, at a ceremony in New York City. | (Credit: USS)

Job saver, automation dealmaker

Mr. Daggett has negotiated two major contracts that keep ILA members among the best-recognised blue-collar workers in terms of pay and conditions for the valuable work that they do.

In 2018, Daggett lead the team that negotiated a six-year master contract extension with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents employers. Landmark provisions in the contract include protection for ILA members against loss of jobs resulting from automated ports. USMX agreed that no fully automated terminals would be constructed at ILA ports for the life of the contract. The agreement includes generous increases in wages and funding and protections for the national health care programme.

Presenting the award, Lt Gen Kenneth R Wykle, a retired US army officer and chair of the AOTOS Committee, said: “The American maritime industry continues to offer up deserving AOTOS recipients and it is our honour to honour them. Harold Daggett is responsible for labour peace on our US waterfronts.”

Mr Daggett also serves on the executive councils of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades and Maritime Trades departments. Under his leadership the ILA has been involved with the ITF and the International Dockers Council (IDC) to secure global justice for dockers and build ILA members’ power through internationalism.

ILA President Harold J. Daggett is credited with securing landmark provisions in waterfront contracts protecting ILA members against loss of jobs resulting from port automation. | (Credit: ILA)

Crumlin visits US East Coast ports

The award coincides international delegation visiting container terminals at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. ITF President and ITF Dockers' Section chair Paddy Crumlin and Dennis Daggett, the General Coordinator of the International Dockworkers' Council (IDC), led the delegation, along with ILA representatives.

The union leaders met with rank-and-file dockers, members of ILA Local 1804-1, at both the Maher Container Terminal and a terminal owned by AMP Terminals, itself a division of shipping giant AP Møller-Mærsk. Workers told the delegation how international supply chain pressures continued to affect their work.

Crumlin was also there in his role as National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, whose Sydney branch officially signed a solidarity pact with ILA Local 1804-1 as part of the visit.

“It’s great to see the dockers of the world united in the goal of achieving fair pay, decent working conditions and a safe working environment,” said Crumlin. “It’s equally great to see the industry recognising the important contribution of labour, in this instance through the person of Harold, to the historic and ongoing success of our industry. Without dockers, nothing moves. We move the world.”