NEW YORK -- Labor leaders were conspicuous in their absence at his annual reception for the maritime industry, but Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he is optimistic they will be with him when it counts for the Port of Baltimore.
About 150 executives of ship lines, railroads and other transportation companies attended yesterday's Port of Baltimore luncheon at the Downtown Athletic Club, hosted by the Maryland Port Administration.
The same event last year drew most of the port's major labor leaders, including John Bowers, president of the International Longshoremen's Association. But that apparent unity was --ed after the governor, in his remarks to the crowd, lamented what he saw as a lack of labor cooperation in Baltimore.
Bowers left in anger, and did not respond to this year's invitation, according to port officials. A spokesman for the union said last year's incident, as well as what some ILA leaders viewed as meddling by the governor in contract talks, concerned Bowers.
But Schaefer, saying he is optimistic about labor peace at the port, told reporters that "I'm pleased."
An agreement on work rules at the new Seagirt Marine Terminal came together with apparent ease several weeks ago. And the new, local contract settled after a strike last January appears to have solved the sticky issue of dockworkers in Baltimore who do not work in the rain, he said.
He commended Horace Alston, the ILA vice president for Baltimore, for his work on a trade mission with the governor this summer. Alston attended meetings with ship lines in the Far East, helping to promote the port.
Port officials will in two weeks take lease offers to two of the lines visited during the trip, OOCL and Yang Ming, hoping to lure some of their business back to Baltimore from Hampton Roads, Va.
Hughes, whose local suffered a defeat in the last contract negotiations, has vowed to bargain apart from the other locals this time. The current agreement expires Nov. 30.
Local talks began in Baltimore on Wednesday with all the ILA JTC locals except for Hughes' Local 953. Management bargainers spoke only in generalities about issues, declining to present proposals or begin formal talks until Hughes attends. This was done on the advice of lawyers, according to one source.