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Supreme Court ends Waterfront Commission’s reign of union-busting in New Jersey port

news 20 Apr 2023

New Jersey’s port is free of the meddling of the archaic Waterfront Commission after the unanimous decision on Tuesday (18 February 2023) by the United States Supreme Court to allow the state to quit the regulatory body.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has campaigned for years to abolish the outdated Commission arguing that its over-regulation was damaging job growth and limiting the port’s competitiveness. The body, which was set up in 1953 in a compact between the states of New York and New Jersey has a history of infringing workers’ rights and undermining unions through its anti-union actions.

“This is a big win for workers’ rights,” said Paddy Crumlin, Chair of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Dockers’ Section.

“We congratulate the ILA for its courage and persistence in exposing the anti-union practices of the Waterfront Commission. With this ruling, dock workers can again get on with delivering a strong economy for New Jersey without external and inappropriate interference, to deliver a sustainable supply chain, while protecting the rights and long-won entitlements of ILA members to safe, decent work under fair contracts.” 

Commission blockage now cleared

The Governor of New Jersey proposed to withdraw from the agency and hand over criminal investigations to the state police following union lobbying that convinced him that the Waterfront Commission was harming the state’s economy. However, New York and the Commission itself have, for a number of years, tried to block the move with a series of legal actions, which ultimately failed with this week’s Supreme Court ruling.

ILA International President Harold J Daggett expressed his union’s satisfaction with the court outcome:

“The ILA is extremely happy with today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision allowing New Jersey to unilaterally withdraw from the Waterfront Commission,” he said. “For the past eight years the Commission spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby and litigate in an attempt to flout the will of the people of New Jersey.  Today the Supreme Court recognized that the people of New Jersey have the right to be free of this rogue agency, which was working to hurt the New Jersey economy.”

“The ILA welcomes the arrival of the New Jersey State Police to the Port of New Jersey, recognising that they will finally bring professionalism, transparency and accountability to administration of the Port,” said Daggett.

“On behalf of all ITF dockers and transport workers, and particularly your brothers and sisters of the MUA, we salute the ILA officers and members for their courage, determination and persistence in exposing the damaging effect that the Commission has had on the New Jersey community, its citizens and your members," said Crumlin. “We salute the union for its win and what it means for workers the world over.”