Sampson removed as longshoreman by Waterfront Commission over ‘excessive absenteeism’

The Bayonne state assemblyman and the local longshoreman's union plan to appeal the decision

Longshoreman and state Assemblyman for the 31st Legislative District William Sampson IV was removed from the waterfront by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor on Dec. 21 over what they say was excessive absenteeism. Sampson, who is from Bayonne, represents the district encompassing all of the city as well as parts of Jersey City.

In a statement, the Commission removed the 33-year-old longshoreman from the waterfront for failing to meet the work and work availability requirements in January to June of 2022. Sampson had been employed as a port worker operating cranes at Global Container Terminals in Bayonne.

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According to the Commission, Sampson claimed that his attendance at particular meetings or events in his capacity as a state Assemblyman was “good cause” for his absences. The Commission rejected Sampson’s claim of good cause for a number of reasons.

The Commission stated that commitments to outside employment, which prevent a longshoreman from meeting the work requirements at the pier, are inconsistent with the Commission’s mandate to eliminate casual workers from the register. Sampson’s employment as a New Jersey assemblyman does not insulate him from his responsibilities as a longshoreman, according to the Commission.

Sampson failed to present any evidence to justify his absences in February 2022, the Commission stated. Sampson testified that he had “no particular reason” for not working or making himself available for work on Saturdays, according to the Commission.

The Commission stated that Sampson failed to present sufficient evidence that attendance at particular events was mandatory to serve as a New Jersey assemblyman. Sampson acknowledged a possibility that, on certain dates, he could have attended the events and still worked later on those days as a longshoreman, according to the Commission.

Sampson also misstated his role as a speaker at one event, the Commission stated. For all of those reasons and others, the Commission unanimously denied Sampson’s request to be retained on the longshoremen’s register in the Port of New York-New Jersey.

In January of this year, Sampson was sworn in as the new assemblyman for the 31st Legislative District from Bayonne, the first African-American to do so. His election also saw the 31st Legislative District be represented entirely by a trio of African-American lawmakers for the first time in its history, including state Sen. Sandra Cunningham and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight.

The move to endorse Sampson, which was applauded by officials across the county, followed Mayor James Davis and the Hudson County Democratic Organization dropping then-incumbent Assemblyman and Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti from the ticket. Sampson had never had a political position prior and Davis has never explained the reasoning behind the maneuver.

Regardless, Sampson vowed to keep his job as longshoreman while working in the legislature, he told the Bayonne Community News during a phone interview from the cockpit of the crane he was operating at the time in 2021. It appears that may no longer be possible.

Earlier in the year, Sampson filed a request with the Port of New York-New Jersey to remain on the longshoreman’s register and keep his crane operator license. This decision by the Commission denies that request.

Following the announcement, Sampson said in a statement to BCN this was a result of an ongoing feud between the state of New Jersey and the Waterfront Commission. While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has tried to withdraw the state from the Commission, which was created in the ’50s to curb mob influence at the ports, New York has sued to halt the move.

The case is on its way to being heard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, although the U.S. has filed a brief in support of New Jersey’s withdrawal. Sampson said this is an example of the Commission expressing its frustration with the situation on Sampson.

“It is unfortunate that the Waterfront Commission has decided to take out its frustrations over the State of New Jersey’s efforts to remove itself from its jurisdiction on me, but I will not let this unfortunate action deter me from fighting for working families in Hudson County and throughout our state,” Sampson said. “I’m proud to be a blue-collar union worker and I will always fight for my brothers and sisters in labor.”

Sampson and the local longshoreman’s union plan to appeal the decision. He recently held a Thanksgiving food giveaway at his union headquarters, the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1588 at 550 Kennedy Blvd., back in November.

“I along with the ILA International will be working to appeal this decision to allow me to continue working in the industry as I have my whole life,” Sampson said. “I believe that this decision is not only legally incorrect but contains numerous factual errors.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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