© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

While the longshoremen strike, Orsted brings other union workers to load ships at State Pier

Members of the ILA continue to picket outside of State Pier in New London.
Brian Scott-Smith
Members of the ILA continue to picket outside of State Pier in New London.

Tensions between State Pier union workers and offshore wind developer Orsted have intensified in New London. The International Longshoremen Association (ILA) is protesting this week for work the union says they were promised.

Early Wednesday morning, two buses attempted to cross the picket line at the port with workers from different unions showing up. An increased police presence guided them into the port.

“It’s another sad day for labor when unions will cross other unions' picket lines, regardless of what the issue is,” said Jim Paylor, assistant general organizer for the ILA. He was at the port when buses unloaded with workers from the Building Trades and Operating Engineers Unions.

The ILA argues Orsted has ignored its jurisdiction and has excluded them in the developer’s project labor agreements to load and unload vessels.

Orsted said Tuesday that they would invoke part of a harbor development agreement they have with the port to handle the time-sensitive loadout of the wind turbine parts for their South Fork Wind project in New York. The Danish energy company said their turbine supplier will handle the loadout of the turbine components until the ILA returns to work under their harbor development agreement.

“We have a legal right to picket and people also have the right to come on to the site,” said Peter Olsen, a business agent with ILA Local 1411. “But, I believe if we look at all the things, everybody’s posturing on this harbor development that Gateway is suppose to supply the labor and Gateway has made their intention known to the ILA that they are not hiring anything but ILA labor.”

Gateway are the port operators at State Pier. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

With assistance from state and local police on Wednesday, the bus was eventually able to pass, and those workers reported to the job site.

In a statement, Orsted spokesperson Tory Mazzola said, “The South Fork Wind team is continuing preparations today for the upcoming loadout of the project’s first wind turbine. With the ILA still refusing to work — and attempting today to block other Connecticut union workers from accessing the job site — we had to move to a contingency plan to keep this work on-track.”

The ILA began their strike on the State Pier, which is being redeveloped to become a hub for the offshore wind industry. It comes just a month after hundreds of union members protested against Orsted at ports across the country.

Earlier this week, Orsted said the work requires heavy machinery training that disqualifies union members for some jobs at the State Pier.

The Operating Engineers Unions has not responded to requests for comment.

“I was raised in a family that you didn’t even ask questions,” Paylor said. “If I walked up to a store and there’s a picket sign, nobody had to give me an explanation. I turned around and went away.”

“It’s still a violation of labor law, where unions don’t violate unions or especially try to encroach on their jurisdiction,” he added.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.