- Worried about surrendering control of its docks, especially to unionized companies, the State Ports Authority on Tuesday voted to block private businesses from running the new shipping terminals it plans to build in North Charleston and Jasper County.
The 5-3 decision comes as the agency is reviewing inquiries from firms interested in operating one or both of the proposed container facilities.
Carroll A. Campbell III urged his fellow board members to prevent the SPA from completely privatizing the new terminals, partly because the authority's only role would be to collect the rent.
"My biggest concerns, to be honest, are the union issues," Campbell said.
At privately run container yards around the country, he said, the operators are contractually required to hire only organized labor.
"When it comes to ports, privatization means unionization," Campbell said.
If the SPA relinquishes control of the new terminals to an all-union work force, it could raise operating costs, lead to work stoppages and make the port less competitive, he said. Also, the increased labor activity on the waterfront could spread to other industries in the state, he said.
Campbell said he's not opposed to the use of unionized workers on the docks, but he wants to make sure the numbers do not tip the balance of power. "At some point there's a percentage where you start to lose control," he said.
Campbell said the SPA's current business model "is the way it should be," noting that a mix of union workers represented by the International Longshoremen's Association and non-union state employees "do a great job" handling freight at the Port of Charleston. He pointed out that the authority just closed out a record-breaking fiscal year in its strongest financial position ever.
SC Port Authority Blocks Port Privatization
Some bad news from South Carolina yesterday: