Chiquita Leaves Port, Longshoremen are Hurting for Jobs
Chiquita’s last vessel sailed to New Orleans Wednesday, and with it, the longshoremen jobs needed to load and unload those vessels. Port leaders say there still is hope for the longshoremen and the port. Local 1303 is tightening its belt loops to accommodate Chiquita’s departure.
Longshoremen are coming together to make sure no union members are left behind. Darius Johnson, I.L.A. 1303 President, says, “If someone has a permanent job now, he’s looking to possibly sacrifice a day here for someone to gain a day.”
Johnson says some longshoremen have even offered to retire early to make room for younger workers to stay employed full time. For now, not every Chiquita longshoreman has lost his job. Johnson also says, "F.A.K., freight of all kinds department, their paper shares, those departments are still going on, and we do still have longshoremen that are actually working in these departments."
While Chiquita’s last vessel has sailed, they still have operations at the Port of Gulfport. Longshoremen will be working to help Chiquita wrap up their operations, but the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better. Half of the longshoremen still working for Chiquita will be out of jobs between now and January, and new tenants, like McDermott, won’t have job openings for several months.
Port Director, Jonathan Daniels, says there is hope for the I.L.A. He says McDermott, when online, will have more jobs for longshoremen than Chiquita ever had. Leaders say they understand how important the I.L.A. is, and want to preserve their jobs. Howard Page of the Steps Coalition says, “They’re definitely the greatest resource I’ve ever heard anyone mention at the port. It’s constantly mentioned, the port directors, the governor, every customer down there always mentions what an outstanding workforce the I.L.A. is.”
For now, I.L.A. 1303 is shifting schedules to try to keep all longshoremen working. The I.L.A.’s local president tells News 25 he has been working with the union chapter in New Orleans and their president is making several openings available for longshoremen in Gulfport who have lost their jobs. However, Johnson says few men will likely take that opportunity because of the commute and their loyalty to Local 1303.