Mayor of Newark, NJ, Ras J. Baraka, has stepped up his campaign to demand more jobs for East Coast’s largest port. According to a flyer with the headline “March on the Port for Jobs”, he is planning a city protest against the Port of New York and New Jersey. Baraka claims that the largest port on the Eastern seaboard has discriminated against hiring minorities. As the flyer states, “Qualified Newark residents and minorities are grossly underrepresented as longshoremen, checkers and mechanics.” This is not the first time that the Mayor of Newark has accused that local Newark residents are being discriminated against for employment in the port.
The International Longshoremen’s Association and the New York Shipping Association deny any such discrimination taking place. They explain that racial percentages of ILA locals have varied due to historical reasons, but they are mostly on par with those of the metropolitan areas. In 2011, the port’s ILA workforce was 25% black and 13% Hispanic; since that time, the port of New York/New Jersey has seen an increase in these numbers due to a plan to hire more military veterans. ILA President, Harold Dagget, responded to Baraka’s claims by saying that 75 of the 800 most recent hires were from Newark residents. Furthermore Dagget explained that many workers hired for higher paying ILA jobs have moved to other areas of New Jersey and New York “to experience a different lifestyle.”
Despite Dagget’s claims, Mayor Baraka asked Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for a federal investigation of “severe racial, gender and ethnic inequality” in hiring at the ports as well as “an apparent bias against the hiring of local residents.” As of yet, the city has not heard back from the U.S. Labor Department. Frank Baraff, spokesperson for Mayor Baraka, explained that Baraka’s reaction to the hiring discrimination has been long overdue and that he is merely trying to raise public awareness of what is happening at the port.
Mayor Baraka has a few different motivations in revising the current hiring trends of the New York/New Jersey Port. One of the most popular is to increase the additional revenue for his cash strapped city from the port, one fourth of which is actually leased by the port authority. In an attempt to boost the economy of Newark, Baraka offered to sell the land in which the property sits to the Port Authority in exchange for further yearly payment. The mayor’s effort to share some of the financial benefits of the port comes at a time where business there is growing steadily. In 2015, a record of 6,371,720 twenty-foot units were handled, a 10.4% increase from the prior year. Traffic at the port has also been up a whopping 12.4% since the same time last year.
The claim of a lack of diversity in hiring longshoremen has also been made by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The whole purpose of the commission is to curtail favoritism that has actually encouraged organized crime on the docks. Elizabeth, New Jersey Mayor, J. Christian Bollwage, whose city also hosts part of the port area, agreed with Mayor Baraka’s comments regarding the hiring discrimination at the port. He seconded Baraka’s notion by explaining that port jobs have “never historically been offered to residents of the City of Elizabeth.” The upcoming march for job hiring equality will surely raise further awareness and eventually result in rightful opportunities for all citizens of the Elizabeth