MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)- United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited the Wando Welch Terminal to discuss supply chain disruption issues and the Biden-Harris administration’s support for workers and employers as the country’s economy recovers from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
His visit also came as union workers are fighting for jobs across the Cooper River at the new Hugh K Leatherman Terminal.
“Dockworkers are essential workers in our country. During the pandemic even though things might have slowed down a bit they still went to work everyday,” said Labor Secretary Walsh.
Labor Secretary Walsh toured some of the terminal in Mount Pleasant before meeting with members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) in a parking lot just inside the port.
“We need to respect the worker who is doing the work. Whether you’re bringing the ship into port, whether you’re unloading the ship,” said Labor Secretary Walsh. “Whatever you do we need to respect the workers.”
According to the Associated Press, the ILA claims that its contract with the United States Maritime Alliance states that only union members can operate heavy lifting equipment, a job that is currently filled by workers from the South Carolina Ports Authority.
“As this port grows, we want to grow with it. We want to be able to do all the jobs that our colleagues do around the country and anywhere else in the world,” said Kenneth Riley, the President of ILA Local 1422.
The ILA says that the South Carolina Ports Authority is not honoring that contract, which means that the workers are not being allowed to work equipment such as cranes at the Hugh K Leatherman Terminal.
“In all other ports pretty much except for North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia our folks are doing all those jobs,” said Riley.
The South Carolina Ports Authority provided this statement to News 2 regarding the ILA.
At a time when the supply chain is seeing unprecedent cargo volumes, the additional capacity at the Hugh Leatherman Terminal is crucial to keeping the supply chain fluid. It is important that this terminal is operated at its full capacity now so the South Carolina Ports Authority can take full advantage of the many growth opportunities at hand.South Carolina Ports