Longshoremen voting on a contract proposal today predicted their agreement would pass, but voiced mixed feelings for strikers from another union who halted work at the port today.
"It's the best we're going to get," said one member of ILA Local 333, the largest longshoremen's local at the port. "You've got to do what you've got to do. Things are tight."
Melvin Lee, a tractor driver with 20 years at the port, said, "A lot of guys who had to go for this contract . . . are backed against the wall."
Carl E. Jupitz, a longshoreman for 29 years, joined his co-workers in predicting the contract would pass. But he said there is limited support for the striking members of ILA Local 953, which represents the clerks.
"It's a lot of hard feelings between the locals," he said. "If there's any cutting to be done, it's only done at our end."
Lee echoed that view.
"They turned the other way when we needed help," he said. "Why should we go for the checkers [the clerks] when they work half a day and get paid all day, and we work half a day and we get paid half a day?"
Workers linked their support for the contract to fears about the economy.
"What good is $50 an hour if you don't have a job?" said "Sparrow," a foreman with Local 333 who would give only his nickname. "The economy's looking bad right now."
He said he would not support a strike by his own local. The shipping lines could always take their work someplace else, he said.
Yet another worker who would not give his name said, "This is the best contract we've had in about four contracts, at least."
Workers from four unions who reached tentative contract agreements on Friday voted today at a cavernous hiring hall on Oldham Street in Dundalk. Men in flannel shirts, blue jeans and down vests sipped coffee and discussed the contract after voting.
Jupitz was pessimistic about the port's future, even if the contract should pass.