Longshoremen forced to sign nondisclosure agreements

Not only has Gateway Terminal, the competing operator to which the Connecticut Port Authority has given control of the New London port, already been diverting business to its own terminal in New Haven, but it has tried to prevent longshoremen here from talking about their lost work.

When the New Haven port owner took control of the New London port in May, it made existing port workers, members of Local 1411 of the International Longshoremen's Association, whose members have worked the docks here since the 1930s, sign nondisclosure agreements prohibiting them from talking about their jobs, multiple sources have told me.

Certainly what Gateway didn't want the New London dock workers talking about is how the company already has been diverting ships to its own terminal in New Haven, paying lower wages to its non-union employees there and none of the New London port fees that would otherwise be due to the state, through its agent, the port authority.

Workers who had been paid thousands of dollars a month with the last operator are now making next to nothing.

It makes the awarding of the New London management contract to Gateway of New Haven by the scandal-ridden port authority just as suspect, to me, as the contracts and deals that went during that same time period to so many authority cronies.

Multiple investigations of the authority are ongoing and far from conclusion.

Also troubling are the political deal-making implications of the authority's use of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Toby Moffett's Washington law firm in negotiating the Gateway management deal, and Gateway's representation by the gorilla Hartford lobbying firm of Jay Malcynsky, which also represents the other major players in the pending wind deal for New London, including Eversource and Bay State Wind, the joint venture between Eversource and Danish wind giant Ørsted.

Lobbyist Malcynsky, who has been successfully collaring the region's lawmakers on the deal, seems to be a major force behind the closing of New London's port to traditional cargo, to the benefit of his clients.

"We are not getting work," longshoreman Victor Mendoza of Groton complained at Tuesday's choreographed rally for the New London wind deal, introducing a sour note in a hearing in which David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development and Gov. Ned Lamont's new designated chairman of the port authority board, served as wind deal enthusiast in chief.

I have to say it made me cringe a bit to see Kooris, representing the state, sing the praises of the deal while representatives of the companies that will profit handsomely, lobbyist Malcynsky's clients, all sat mum, content to let the deputy commissioner make their pitch for them. This is government in Connecticut. Legislators and state officials are all lined up like quacking ducks.

"They aren't giving us any work. I'm behind in my bills. I'm nervous ... They are starving us out," Mendoza told me after the hearing. He said he has worked the docks on and off since the 1980s but steadily the last 10 years.

Mendoza said the decline in the number of ships began immediately after Gateway took over, and the shipments on the few that have come were smaller and took less time to unload. He said he was regularly making $3,000 to $4,000 a month, including lots of overtime, with the last operator, and the work seems to be stopping completely.

Mendoza's picture of a busy port, with three to four ships calling a month, a rate that he said has been increasing, is much different than the one painted by Kooris, who described a port in decline, even projecting an overhead image for the audience of a weed-strewn pier.

Mendoza said he was away for a few weeks and hired by Gateway after other New London dock workers. He said he doesn't remember signing a nondisclosure agreement, which others have told him have kept them from speaking out.

He said he was nervous after speaking at Tuesday's hearing. Gateway managers came up to him afterward, circled him and made sarcastic comments about his speaking out.

"I didn't sleep that night. These are powerful people," he said.

There were proposals, before Gateway was chosen to be New London port operator, to create a temporary floating work space to accommodate the wind turbine assembly while keeping the existing piers open for cargo.

But the bidders with the right lobbyist won, and jobs and port revenue already are draining from New London.

Who in the world would think it would be a good idea to turn over management of a revenue maker to its principal competitor?

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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