ILA also says govt. failed to recognize union’s sustained commitment to reform

The International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO sharply denounces the shameful tactics used by the US Department of Justice in leaking information to the press on June 29, 2005 regarding its intention to bring a lawsuit against the union, even as the two sides were engaged in negotiations on a settlement.

“The government’s action is shameful,” the union said. “For over three years, the ILA has been engaged in intensive reform efforts and the Government has been kept appraised, but has not until the last month even purported to have any interest in discussing a resolution.”

By leaking its intention to file a civil action against the ILA and its officers under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) in the midst of negotiations, the government demonstrated it was not negotiating in good faith with representatives of the union in seeking a resolution, but was rather intent on initiating an action in the press rather than in the courts that could have severe economic impact and devastating consequences on the operations of the ILA and the entire shipping industry.

The leadership of the ILA is disappointed that the government has chosen to perpetuate an outdated stereotype of the ILA focusing on stale allegations of wrongdoing while ignoring long standing efforts by the ILA leaders to strengthen union members’ rights and to eradicate any unlawful conduct. These steps include the adoption of a Code of Ethics nearly two years ago and the creation of the position of an Ethical Practices Counsel, whose duties include “dealing with organized crime influences, corruption, and enforcing the provisions of the Code of Ethics.

The Honorable Judge Milton Mollen, an individual whose life of public service has demonstrated impeccable character and honesty, serves as the ILA’s Ethical Practices Counsel. Judge Mollen is authorized to independently investigate any allegations of wrongdoing by any representative of the union and bring charges as appropriate. ILA members can utilize a toll-free telephone hotline to contact the Ethical Practices Counsel and provide information to him in confidence.

Among the actions taken recently by the ILA while engaged in talks with the US Department of Justice included strengthening its 18-month-old Code of Ethics which all officers, members and staff must adhere to as representatives of the union. The ILA also lengthened Judge Mollen’s term as EPC and made permanent the position of Ethical Practices Counsel. The union intends to incorporate its Code of Ethics and EPC position into the International’s Constitution and By-Laws.

“Since he has become president, John Bowers has made the protection of ILA members’ rights and the elimination of corruption within the union a top and ongoing priority,” the union said. “The ILA leadership is entrusted to negotiate contracts on behalf of its membership, which President Bowers and others have done quite well for the past two decades. Our recently negotiated six-year agreement will bring prosperity to ILA members and stability for our employers at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. ILA union officials are not law enforcement representatives with the same means to investigate wrongdoings as the Department of Justice has at its disposal. Still, the ILA has voluntarily instituted more reforms than any other union or corporation.”

The ILA vehemently denies any wrongdoing by the union and believes the organization should not be condemned for the acts of a few.

“We believe the ILA’s commitment to honest trade unionism and vigorous representation of its members’ interest is second to none,” the union stated. “The Justice Department’s intention to bring a Civil RICO suit against the ILA is an unwarranted and unnecessary attack on our entire membership and poses an economic threat to the union and the commerce and security of the United States.” (Source: International Longshoremen’s Association)