On the Waterfront

As he tries to clean house at the bloated Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, new PA chief Pat Foye’s thorniest problem will be the docks — where the International Longshoremen Association fights to preserve the old, corrupt ways.

Some of the outrages are outlined in last month’s report from the bistate Waterfront Commission, which found the port’s financial and management practices to be “dysfunctional.” Others have turned up in court testimony.

How bad is it? Consider: Last year, the Port Authority, in accordance with state regulations, asked the ILA for a list of candidates to fill 60 baggage-handler and driver positions. The union’s list turned out to have just one non-white on it. That prompted the Waterfront Commission, which is mandated to ensure fair-hiring practices, to ask the ILA to certify that it doesn’t discriminate against minorities.

The ILA’s answer came last month: It refused to acknowledge the commission’s authority to enforce federal employment law. Later that same day, the commission issued a landmark report that made it clear why the ILA wants to keep its hiring practices secret. Among a vast string of abuses, the report describes several ILA shop stewards as “mob and union favorites” whose six-figure salaries “require little or no work.”

How did they manage that? Shop stewards are paid whenever a union member is working on the docks, no matter where the steward is. This lack of accountability allowed ILA steward William Vitale to “work” while vacationing in Florida, California and Aruba. In another instance, Edward Aulisi, the son of shop steward Vincent Aulisi, was found to be “at home, barbecuing” when sign-in sheets showed he should have been at the port.

The commission, the ILA and his employer were all made aware of his no-show activities, but he wasn’t terminated or disciplined because of union “customs and practices.”

Edward Aulisi was indicted on federal racketeering charges last year, stemming from phone conversations with Michael “Mikey Cigars” Coppola, a member of the mafia, that were intercepted by the FBI.

Coppola was fleeing a murder investigation at the time. Aulisi briefed him about the investigation and assured him that Vincent Aulisi was continuing to kick back to Coppola, at a better rate than the former president of his local.

Another shop steward is Ralph “Ralphie” Gigante — a nephew of mafia boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante (a k a “The Oddfather”). In testimony before the Waterfront Commission last year, he admitted under oath that he has never handled a grievance in his career, hadn’t read the CBA he was supposed to enforce and didn’t know that CBA stood for “collective bargaining agreement.”

Ralphie Gigante is still employed by the ILA at the port; he made over $400,000 last year. He testified to the Waterfront Commission that he holds his position “for life.”

In fact, at least nine relatives of Vincent Gigante are employed by the ILA — each making a six-figure salary. The ILA’s intransigence is rooted in its desire to protect jobs that technology is rapidly making obsolete. Sixty years ago, 40,000 men swarmed over the ships coming through New York Harbor, unloading cargo bag by bag and crate by crate. Now, fewer than 4,000 workers man massive cranes that move shipping containers directly onto waiting trucks.

As ILA President Harold Daggett said this month, “We know technology is coming and we know we can’t stop it forever, but we will not be deterred from protecting our work and protecting our jurisdiction.”

But if “protecting our work” means preserving waste and fraud and “protecting our jurisdiction” means safeguarding corruption and criminality, America’s ports would be better off without the ILA.