Port of Galveston’s growth and success wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated, hard-working men and women of the International Longshoremen’s Association. In 2018, these union workers moved luggage for almost 1 million cruise passengers and 4 million tons of cargo across our docks.

This year through July, they logged 358,845 work hours, the equivalent of 173 full-time jobs. Good-paying union jobs have supported generations of Galveston families who have invested in their hometown, sent their children to college and saved for secure futures.

As we celebrate Labor Day on Monday, join me in recognizing the contributions of our port’s union workers — and all of the workers who have built and contribute to our nation’s strength and prosperity. Labor Day 2019 is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday.


The port’s history and the legacy of waterfront jobs go back almost 200 years when the Congress of Mexico designated Galveston a provisional port and customs entry in 1825, following Mexico’s successful revolution from Spain. At that time, Galveston’s natural harbor was already a busy commercial hub. For decades, men did the back-breaking work of carrying cargo on and off of ships.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll see men and women moving a range of cargoes using cranes, forklifts and other equipment. Breakbulk cargo, like bananas and cotton once carried by hand, is packed onto pallets and into containers.

ILA workers use cranes to move containers, huge wind turbine pieces and other large cargo off of ships and place them on trucks and rail cars. Workers drive new and used cars and a wide range of heavy equipment off of ships.

Union workers are also in the people business. Cruise passengers can thank ILA workers for greeting them at the curb and getting their luggage safely on and off the ship. ILA workers also resupply each cruise ship with food, beverages, cleaning supplies and just about everything else a cruise ship needs.


Work on the waterfront is handled by three ILA groups with different jurisdictions and responsibilities. ILA Local 20 moves cargo on and off the ships. ILA 1504-8, chartered in 1933 by the ILA African American Warehouse Local, moves cargo once it’s off the ships. ILA Local 1665, historically known as the clerks and checkers, coordinates, logs and tracks cargo movements. They also are the timekeepers who accurately log hours worked for the three locals.

All three labor groups closely coordinate to safely and seamlessly move tons of cargo through the Port of Galveston around the clock. They do this in coordination with port staff, stevedores, ship lines, pilots and others.

Their dedication and hard work have helped us build a reputation as a port that takes great care of its customers.

Again, please join me on this Labor Day in recognizing the great work of our local union workers. Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday.

Rodger Rees is Port of Galveston port director and chief executive officer.

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