Fri., September 14, 2012 12:00pm (EDT)

Dockworkers Union Uses Clout
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Shipping companies like the ports and Atlanta's FedEx are particularly unionized in Georgia compared to other trades.  (photo Georgia Ports Authority)
Shipping companies like the ports and Atlanta's FedEx are particularly unionized in Georgia compared to other trades. (photo Georgia Ports Authority)
Talks are set to begin this week between the dockworkers union and an industry group representing ports.

The International Longshoreman's Association has clout in Georgia despite the state's anti-union right-to-work laws.

The ILA is one of the Eastern Seaboard's strongest unions and is part of the negotiations between the union and the US Maritime Association representing 14 Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports.

The dispute really is regional in scope and the Georgia parties are playing local roles in it.

Labor economist Tom Smith of Emory University says, the Georgia logistics industries, like ports and FedEx, are especially unionized.

"There's sort of two things going on," Smith says. "One is the history of the union and the second is whether or not they actually have enough influence in the environment that they're operating in."

A strike at the Georgia ports could idle thousands of workers.

"A lot of it has to do with the history of those workers in that environment and what it means," Smith says. "Those workers obviously don't have enough clout to elect representatives to keep this from being a right-to-work state."

Ports Authority officials, however, say they're hopeful an agreement can be reached by the September 30th deadline.