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Judge Dismisses Suit Against Longshoremen's Hiring Practices

April 23, 1987|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused the longshoremen's union and an employers group of favoritism in registering friends and relatives for dock work instead of hiring experienced workers.

U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez ruled Monday that the estimated 105 people who filed the suit after they were unsuccessful in obtaining longshore jobs had failed to follow a grievance procedure established by the union and the employers group to investigate such complaints.

Attorney George W. Shaeffer Jr., who represented the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the ruling. He asserted that the grievance procedure is inherently unfair because it is administered by the union and employers group.

"The committee . . . is not neutral," Shaeffer said in an interview.

'Democratic' Process

Lou Loveridge, president of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union Local 13 in Wilmington--the largest local on the West Coast with more than 2,600 members at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports--said in an interview that the registration process is "democratic for anyone."

"It's a fair and honest procedure," Loveridge said. "But no matter what you do, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't."

The lawsuit was filed in November, 1985, against the ILWU and ILWU Locals 13 and 63 and the employers group, Pacific Maritime Assn., after the union registered about 350 new longshoremen.

The new registrants were selected from about 20,000 people who had initially applied for the 350 lucrative jobs. Registered longshoremen last year typically earned about $60,000 or more if they worked 2,000 or more hours, according to the maritime association.

'Casuals' Joined Suit

Many of the people who joined in the lawsuit were part-time longshoremen, called "casuals," who work at Southern California ports. The casuals are not guaranteed work and do not receive union benefits.

The suit alleged that the union hired a large number of people with little or no experience, many of whom were friends or relatives of union members.

However, the union and maritime association contended that the plaintiffs had failed to follow the grievance procedure. Under that procedure, people who are not selected as longshoremen have 10 days after the last person is registered in a hiring period to file a grievance with the union and the association.

After a grievance is filed, a committee made up of union and association members rule on whether the grievance has any merit.

30 Filed Grievances

George Shibley, attorney for ILWU Local 13, said only about 30 people who were among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit had filed grievances by the May, 1985, deadline. However, Shibley said the grievances pertained to technical contract provisions and did not cite favoritism as claimed in the lawsuit. Shibley said the committee rejected all those grievances.

"The (association's) position is that the grievance procedure was established specifically to remedy problems that arise during the registration (job application) process," said Dennis Gladwell, a maritime association attorney. "And the plaintiffs, through their own neglect, failed to take advantage of it."

Until the late 1960s, people seeking membership in the union had to be sponsored by a union member. Now, those seeking jobs fill out applications and are rated on experience, education and willingness and ability to perform a variety of jobs. Those who score highest must then pass an interview conducted by the the union and maritime association.

The lawsuit is one of at least three that have been filed in recent years challenging the union's recruiting practices. In one of them, filed in January, 1985, the wives of nine longshoremen alleged that a union rule prohibiting hiring spouses of dockworkers was discriminatory.

Settled Out of Court

That suit was settled out of court after the union abolished the rule and registered 32 women and one man who had been affected by the regulation.

In another related union matter, ILWU Local 13 has agreed to pay $1.2 million to 1,772 people who the National Labor Relations Board ruled were discriminated against by the local between 1968 and 1977, according to the NLRB.

Harry Malcom, a field examiner for the labor board in Los Angeles, said the settlement was reached late last month after the board ruled that the local violated federal labor law by dispatching warehousemen to longshore work instead of sending part-time dockworkers. The warehousemen, who were not registered to work on the docks, were part of a branch of Local 13 that no longer exists.

Under the terms of the settlement, each of the 1,772 workers is entitled to $677. The money will paid over a five-year period. The union never admitted any wrongdoing in the matter.

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