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Assembly Approves Quijano & Sumter Measure to Help Save NJ’s Port Economy, End Hiring Crisis

Legislation Urges NY to Join NJ in Passing Legislation to End Waterfront Commission’s Stranglehold on NJ’s Port

The General Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a measure sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Quijano and Shavonda Sumter to help end the Waterfront Commission’s stranglehold on New Jersey’s port economy and bring relief to neighboring communities that are suffering as a consequence.

“The Waterfront Commission’s reign over our ports is impeding commerce, stifling job creation, and impacting security” said Quijano (D-Union). “The impact of the current manpower shortage reaches far and wide, affecting both local and Turnpike traffic and the retailers and independent truckers who rely on the timely delivery of these goods to earn a living. At a time when our ports are under intense pressure from other Atlantic Coast ports and we’re still struggling to revive our economy, we can’t afford to sit back while one of the nation’s busiest ports is held hostage by this arcane bureaucracy.”

The measure (AJR-61) urges the governor and legislature of New York to pass stalled legislation, which would free port employers and unions to hire more employees without being subject to approval by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. New Jersey enacted the legislation (A-3123) in 2007, but because the Waterfront Commission is a bi-state agency, it needs to be passed by New York as well to become effective.

“Without legislative action, the Port of New York and New Jersey will be denied the flexibility necessary to hire and train workers in a timely manner, which will continue to impede the economic growth of the port,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We’re already at a crisis point. That will only be compounded by the imminent retirement of hundreds of port workers this spring and the future expansion of the Bayonne Bridge. It’s imperative that our New York counterparts recognize the severity of the situation and work with us to expedite this stalled legislation on their side.”

Specifically, the measure would require the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor to accept any application for the inclusion of new employees in the longshoremen’s register of the Port of New York District.

The sponsors noted that despite clamoring from port employers and labor unions to hire roughly 600 more workers, the Waterfront Commission has delayed the hiring approval, creating a shortage in workers to help unload cargo at the ports which has consequently slowed down commerce and created a backlog of idling trucks that are choking out neighborhoods surrounding areas like Port Elizabeth.

The lawmakers also pointed out that when the Waterfront Commission was formed in 1953, the New York side of the Hudson River dominated in terms of the volume of cargo, number of terminals and number of longshore workers employed. Today, more than 82 percent of the cargo and work hours are located on the Jersey side of the river and 80 percent of the workforce resides in New Jersey, many of them right in Quijano’s 20th legislative district.

An identical measure now awaits consideration by the Senate. Upon approval, copies of the resolution will be sent to the Governor of New York, each member of the New York State Legislature, and the New York and New Jersey Commissioners of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.