In 2011, LDF began representing a group of nine African-American longshoremen, members of International Longshoremen’s Union, Local 333 who work on the Port of Baltimore, one of the busiest and fastest growing ports in the country. The longshoremen filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that Port management discriminates in its selection of workers to train and certify for the position of crane operator, the most highly-paid position at the Port. Each of the longshoremen has been selected for training and completed at least the first phase of the crane training process. However, eight of the nine longshoremen have been denied the opportunity to complete the subsequent phases of the processdespite repeated inquirieseven as more junior white longshoremen have been expeditiously trained and certified. While the ninth longshoreman has now been certified, that only occurred after a nearly six-year delay.
The discrimination experienced by these African-American longshoremen is not new at the Port. The Port’s history of documented discrimination goes back at least to the Civil Rights Era, when in 1971, a federal court entered a decree integrating the up-to-then separate African-American union and white union. Prior to that order, the white union maintained a separate hiring hall, reserving the best jobs for its members. In addition, the consent decree restructured the selection process for ships’ foremen and the seniority system with an eye towards making both fairer for African-American longshoremen. Today, although the Port’s workforce is now more than half black, discrimination in training, promotions, and the conditions of employment is, by many accounts, pervasive.