BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
Since 2009, members of the International Long Shoremen Local 1982 have charged Midwest Terminal of Toledo with discriminatory practices.
What has made the process even more frustrating to the complainants is they say the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has been aware of their concerns but hasn’t done anything to help resolve the issue, according to the union.
Otis Brown, president of Local 1982 since August 2012, says that some of the practices began under the former leaders of his union, in which they conspired with Midwest Terminal to pay members low wages for their work.
Since becoming president, Brown and the 97 percent minority composed union have fought to receive equal pay for equal work.
One example he gave as a discriminatory practice revolves around training. Brown says members of his union are supposed to be trained 180 days prior to the start of a contract. Instead of receiving that training, his members are expected to know the job in a week’s time. If they don’t, then they lose that contract.
Brown said that they’ve filed their complaint with the Civil Rights Commission, but Midwest Terminal’s attorneys utilize tactics to continue to stretch out the case as long as possible in hopes that Local 1982 will grow tired or run out of funds.
Another tactic used by the company’s attorneys involve prolonging court cases by avoiding being charged with discrimination, Brown said.
The company also discriminated against the few whites who are a part of his union to avoid being charged with violating civil rights; which thereby, necessitates more investigation and prolongs the court case.
On Thursday, May 23, Brown and members of Local 1982 went to the Port Authority’s offices on Water Street to attend the open board meeting while the other members picketed in front of the building.
The board meeting wasn’t to address Local 1982′s concerns, but it was their hope that they could again make their plea and help bring about resolve to the matter.
During the brief moments, Brown pointed out to the board that in Article V of their lease policy, there was a non discrimination clause that says no business can lease property from the Port Authority and practice discrimination.
Also present during the board meeting was Terry Leach, Midwest Terminal’s director of management. After the meeting, he spoke about the charges of discrimination.
Leach said there wasn’t much he could reveal because both parties are still negotiating. However, said he was a former union man and wouldn’t do anything to violate Local 1982′s rights.
Leach said he applauds the union’s new leadership and has great respect for Brown for doing a great job for his members since becoming president.
He also said he wouldn’t allow any discrimination of any type and they’re not trying to cut wages or benefits.
Leach said some of Local 1982′s problems originate from the former leadership, which still haunts them.
However, he said he’s confident that the upcoming meeting regarding contract negotiations will get resolved.
Brown admitted that past leadership caused many problems for the members of Local 1982. He added that, those low wages and unsafe work environment that came about under that leadership is something Midwest Terminal wants to still keep in place.
“We’re not letting this issue go until our concerns are resolved,” Brown said. “If there’s anything the Port Authority can do under their non discriminatory clause, we’re going to make sure that it’s done.”
Paul Toth, president/CEO, the Port Authority only leases the property to Midwest Terminal and have no say in how management and workers conduct business.
In a phone interview with The Toledo Journal, Toth said board members became aware of the allegations of discrimination in their April meeting.
Since the Port Authority is not a party to the case, their wasn’t anything it could do about the allegations.
Toth also added that he doesn’t understand how the union could make the charge of discrimination when Local 1982 and Midwest are still in negotiations.
Brown said the Port Authority has been aware of the matter for years and that negations just started four months ago, therefore, the government agency could’ve interceded about the discrimination, according to Article V of the lease agreement.