Longshoremen walk off job at LC Port; issue resolved - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Longshoremen walk off job at Port of Lake Charles, issue resolved

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Local longshoremen walked off the job on Thursday at the Port of Lake Charles where three ships are being loaded.

About 200 union members stopped working because they said Lake Charles Stevedores brought in a work crew from Houston when there were local longshoremen in need of work. They said that violates their contract with the stevedoring company.

The longshoremen got in their cars and drove from the port to their local union hall where union officials were on the phone trying to resolve the dispute.

Isaac Goins is the president of Local 2047 who said the gang was brought in retaliation for a worker calling OSHA about an unsafe crane. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which regulates safety in the workplace.

"Because OSHA came in yesterday that he was going to screw us because we screwed him, excuse my language. We did not call in OSHA. One of our workers called in OSHA concerning a crane that the stevedores owned and it was operating. The crane was malfunctioning, wasn't operating properly. It was unsafe. But he's blaming us because OSHA came in," Goins said.

However, general manager for Lake Charles Stevedores Phillip Rogers denies the Houston workers were brought here in retaliation.

"We've got three large cargo shipments coming through the Port of Lake Charles with a lot of local jobs being supported, a lot of local rice being shipped through the port. We have a fourth ship coming in through the weekend. And Thursdays are paydays and longshoremen are notorious for not showing up after paydays. And we're just trying to provide the correct amount of labor for our customers to make sure they ship through the port efficiently," said Rogers.

He said OSHA inspected the crane and that there is no problem or safety issue.

"We did have an issue where a crane had a bearing go out. It's been repaired weeks ago and the crane has not been used since then. And we did have an inspection but there's no retaliation of any sort," said Rogers.

The issue was resolved within about an hour and a half and the men headed back to work -- after saying a prayer of thanks. 

So, at least for now, the issue is settled and the longshoreman are back for what's a very busy time at the docks. The Houston crew is not working at the port though it may be available if there are not enough local longshoremen to handle the work.

Lake Charles Port Director Bill Rase said the port never wants to see a work stoppage ever -- but that he's pleased all parties handled themselves professionally and that work resumed immediately once the problem was resolved.

Owner of Lake Charles Stevedores, Tom Flanagan, was out-of-town but said earlier, there was no retaliation for calling OSHA and that the work stoppage has been resolved. And Flanagan said OSHA found no problem or safety issue with the crane.

Flanagan also said it was an illegal work stoppage. 

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