Union Workers Continue to Rally Against Port Deal - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/27/06

Union Workers Continue to Rally Against Port Deal

The plan to turn over control of some American ports to a Dubai company is on hold right now, with the Bush administration taking a rare second review. It's a 45-day investigation the United Arab Emirates company itself offered to keep the plan on track.

At the same time, some congressmen are threatening to sink the ports plan. Some with lawsuits, others with legislative logjams.

The Bush administration promises to veto any congressional efforts to block the deal.

Even though the takeover would not affect the ports in the Coastal Empire, union workers fear that could change over time. Several protestors, including US Rep. John Barrow (D-GA Dist. 12), took to the streets today, rallying outside the gates of the Georgia Ports Authority.

"If it can happen some place else, it will happen here eventually," said Barrow.

For the second time, union workers are rallying against the potential port agreement.

"We don't like the security of our ports being controlled by a foreign country," said union representative Kerry Scott with International Longshoremen's Association Local 2046. "Our question is, why can't it be controlled by 100 percent American?"

Congressman Barrow says that Congress needs to protect the United States from foreign management, and says that we need more security for our ports, not insecurity. "I think we need to commit ourselves to management of the ports to be under control by American corporations served by American citizens," he said.

Teamsters say they are concerned about homeland security, and if the Unites States agrees to allow Dubai to take over the six American ports, they say the American people's safety will be at risk. "This company has not been a friend to the United States and I think this will affect our national security in this country," said Teamster representative Jim Stewart.

"To me, it threatens the security in this country and I am afraid now because everything comes through the waterways," noted Alfreda Goldwire, president of the Savannah chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Robert Morris says, if the Teamsters want to protest, that's fine, but the Port of Savannah has always been operated by the state and it will continue to stay that way.

But Teamsters say they are concerned the agreement with the state could change over time. "This port could become a privatized port and who knows what's going happen here?" Stewart.

Union workers say they will continue to have more rallies against the port agreement over the next couple of weeks.

Reported by: Brooke Kelley, bkelley@wtoc.com

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