Longshoreman – Definition

Cite this article as:"Longshoreman – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 25, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/longshoreman-definition/.


Longshoreman Definition

A longshoreman refers to an employed person on the port wharves who is charged with loading and offloading vessels, and may also sort and distribute cargo as needed for shipping and processing. In other words, longshoremen have the role of loading and unloading freight from cargo ships to docks. The longshoreman synchronizes his efforts with warehouses or companies that engage in cargo transportation like trucking companies. Longshoremen are represented by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) which is one of the longest serving labor unions in the United States. ILA has about 200 local affiliates within its member areas including the East Coast, Canada, Puerto Rico, Great Lakes, and the Gulf Coast.

A Little More on What is a Longshoreman

The key roles of a longshoreman include operating complex loading equipment like forklifts and cranes. A longshoreman might use such machinery to move large cargo containers which are used to store cargo safely on large ships. When a cargo shipment arrives at the port rail or truck, it is the role of the longshoreman to unload the containers, organize, and load them onto the ship. Once the cargo reaches a distraction port, another longshoreman unloads the containers and transfers them to a truck where they can be transported to the next destination.

A longshoreman may also have overlapping duties with the crew of a cargo ship. For instance, a longshoreman may spend his days working on the ship, although in most days he would be unloading the cargo.

The history of ILA dates back to the colonial period when ships carrying goods from Europe began arriving in the United States. Initially, the longshoremen that came with the ship engaged in different full-time occupations but left their jobs to unload the awaited and desperately needed supplies without expecting any compensation. As the country began developing a fledgling economy, ships increase which made longshore work a full-time occupation.

Over time, many immigrants congregated in the American cities, hoping to secure jobs, particularly along the coast where bulky duties were performed. As a result, the number of professional longshoremen grew, and by the early 19th century, longshoremen populated North Atlantic. All the longshoremen were subjected to very poor working conditions as well as pitiful wages. With the rampant exploitation, the longshoremen began organizing themselves by themed-century. In 1864, the first union of modern longshoremen was formed at the New York port, known as the Longshoremen’s Union Protective Association (LUPA).

In the later 19th century, major unions were battling themselves, and a new union was shaping itself. Various unions like LUPA and Knights of Labor fought against each other. In the end, most of the unions were broken. It was during this time, in 1877, Dan Keefe, an Irish tugboat worker, formed the first local association which would later be known as International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).

In 1953, states like New York and New Jersey joined an interstate compact, with the approval of the Congress. This resulted in the establishment of the Waterfront Commission that would later regulate ILA. The commission’s main role is to prevent individuals with criminal records from holding positions within the union.

References for Longshoreman

Academic Research on Longshoreman

Longshoreman-Shipowner-Stevedore: The Circle of Liability, Stover, H. B. (1963). Michigan Law Review, 61(3), 539-564. This article broadly discusses the history of longshoremen and their relationship with the ship-owners. The authors explore how the role of longshoreman emerged with increased shipment along the US coastline and how temporary on-loaders and off-loaders of cargos transformed to becoming longshoremen. The article mentions the term ‘seamen’ which it defines broadly as any individual who qualifies in the case of injury to maintain cure i.e. for receipt of a daily living allowance and medical expenses from the ship or the owner until a maximum cure is found. Further, it describes how unions emerged with the aim of protecting the rights of seamen.

Wrongful Death: Negligence Remedy Available to Estate of Longshoreman, Goldstein, J. K. (2001). J. Mar. L. & Com., 32, 175. This article discusses the 1970 Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc. case which was decided upon by the Supreme Court. According to the authors, the case was a success after the court overturned an anachronistic precedent, and held that the general maritime law provided a cause of action for the wrongful death of a longshoreman because of unseaworthiness.

The Injured Longshoreman vs. the Shipowner after 1972: Business Invitees, Land-Based Standards, and Assumption of Risk, Deacon, J. (1976). Hastings LJ, 28, 771. This article discusses the aftermath of the court ruling over the case of Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc. and how it impacted business invitees, land-based standards, and risk assumptions.

The Common Fund Doctrine Held Inapplicable to Longshoreman-Initiated Actions under the LHWCA-Bloomer v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Brethe, B. O. N. (1980). Mar. Law., 5, 271. This article discusses the historical ruling of Bloomer v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. which was made pursuant to the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The author illustrates how the plaintiff who was injured while under employment as a longshoreman sued his employer and managed to receive compensation under the LHWCA. Further, the article describes the plaintiff’s second complaint, detailing negligence action against the employer as also provided by the Act.

Metropolitan Stevedore Company v. Rambo: A New Standard Which Punishes the Diligent Longshoreman. Reinhold, M. L. (1996). Whittier L. Rev., 18, 141. This article illustrates how the court ruled against a longshoreman. The Supreme Court interpreted the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (HWCA) to rule the case which arose after an employer attempted to modify a disability award because of changes that emerged in the wage-earning capacity of an employee (respondent) injured at the workplace although no change was made in the employee’s physical condition.

The Imperial Longshoreman, Gadsdon, W. H. (1915). The Academy and literature, 1914-1916, (2238), 200-200.  This poem by Gadsdon illustrates the daily experience of a longshoreman. Based on the lines of the poem, it is evident that longshoremen undergo a lot of challenges including the cold weather and the fear of having ship wrecking in the sea. The author urges readers to appreciate sailors and mariners since the work of the sea is risky and more engaging.

Rambo, the Sequel: Does Federal Law Permit an Award of Nominal Disability Benefits to an Injured Longshoreman to Preserve the Right to Receive Future Benefits …, Grenig, J. E. (1996). (96-272). Preview US Sup. Ct. Cas., 368.  This article investigates whether the federal law permits an award of nominal disability benefits to an injured longshoreman to preserve the right to receive future benefits.

Admiralty: The Supreme Court’s View of Instant Operational Negligence by a Longshoreman Rendering a Vessel Unseaworthy, Rooks, M. E. (1971). Stetson Intramural L. Rev., 2, 161. This paper addresses the Supreme Court’s ruling against a longshoreman siting negligence of the longshoreman rather than unseaworthiness of the vessel. According to the author, a ship owner has the duty to seamen to supply seaworthy equipment. However, the article cites that the ruling had been reversed by the Supreme Court who considered the fact that the fellow longshoreman’s negligent use of a winch rendered the vessel unseaworthy.

Assignment under 933 (b) Precludes Longshoreman from Pursuing Third-Party Claim-Rodriguez v. Compass Shipping, Brasher, P. (1981). Mar. Law., 6, 96.  The article reveals that the plaintiff longshoreman was injured while on duty, working abroad with the defendant’s vessel and compiled a compensation claim against the employer. Subsequently, the longshoreman received compensation and later brought a personal injury action against the owner of the ship, alleging that the injuries were caused by injuries.

Indemnity Liability of Time Charterer in Longshoreman Personal Injury Cases, Huttenbrauck, D. R. (1970, January). In The Forum (Section of Insurance, Negligence and Compensation Law, American Bar Association) (pp. 121-133). Section of Insurance, Negligence and Compensation Law, American Bar Association. This journal discusses several cases of longshoreman personal injury based on the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Based on the overview, it is believed that the Act has promoted justice in sea case rulings.

An Inquiry Sustained by a Longshoreman on Land and Caused by Equipment on Land is within a Vessel’s Warranty of Seaworthiness, Milligan, M. (1966). Hous. L. Rev., 4, 153.  This article describes a court ruling of the case of Mascuilli v. US in accordance with the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. During the ruling, the district court denied any recovery, citing that the ship was seaworthy and that the death resulted from negligence of a fellow longshoreman. However, the article cites that the ruling had been reversed by the Supreme Court who considered the fact that the fellow longshoreman’s negligent use of a winch rendered the vessel unseaworthy. The case proves how significant the Act is to longshoremen and ship owners.

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