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Waterfront Commission denies assemblyman’s appeal to keep longshoreman job

Assemblyman William Sampson, a Democrat for the 31st Legislative District, has lost his job and crane operator license

Assemblyman William Sampson of the 31st Legislative District. Photo courtesy of the assemblyman.

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has denied a motion to reconsider the recent removal of Bayonne’s State Assemblyman for the 31st Legislative District William Sampson from the waterfront as a longshoreman and revocation of his crane operator license.

Sampson had been employed as a port worker at Global Container Terminals in Bayonne.

On Jan. 18, the commission voted unanimously to reject his appeal, 2-0. The Waterfront Commission initially ruled on Dec. 21 to remove Sampson from the waterfront and revoke his license due to “excessive absenteeism” due to his other job in the state legislature.

He was removed for failing to meet the work and work availability requirements in January to June of 2022. The Waterfront Commission rules dictate that longshoreman must work or be available to work for a minimum of 90 days in every half-calendar year, including a minimum of 15 days in five out of six months during that period.

Sampson, a 33-year-old Democratic legislator first sworn in back in 2022 to the applause of local Democrats, represents the district encompassing Bayonne and parts of Jersey City as part of the trio of African-American lawmakers including State Senator Sandra Cunningham and State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight.

He is the first African-American person from Bayonne to hold the position and replaced then-Assembly Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti, who had an unspecified falling out with Mayor James Davis, who has final say over the official Hudson County Democratic Organization endorsement for that Assembly seat.

Regardless, Sampson vowed to keep his job as longshoreman while working in the part-time legislature as is allowed and as many lawmakers do, he told the Bayonne Community News during a phone interview from the cockpit of the crane he was operating at the time in 2021. However, that is now no longer possible for him.

The Waterfront Commission reaffirms its initial ruling

Sampson was removed from the workplace and his crane operator license was revoked for failing to meet the work and work availability requirements in the first half of the calendar year in 2022. According to the Waterfront Commission, he claimed that his attendance at particular meetings or events in his capacity as a New Jersey State Assemblyman was “good cause” for his absences.

The Waterfront Commission rejected Sampson’s claim of good cause for a number of reasons. They cited 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.”

The Waterfront Commission said that Sampson’s employment as a New Jersey State Assemblyman does not insulate him from his responsibilities as a longshoreman.

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

The Waterfront Commission said that Sampson failed to present sufficient evidence that attendance at particular events was mandatory to serve as a New Jersey State Assemblyman. They said he also acknowledged a possibility that, on certain dates, he could have attended the events and still worked later on those days as a longshoreman. Sampson also misstated his role as a speaker at one event, according to the Waterfront Commission.

Citing “excessive absenteeism,” the Waterfront Commission argued that there was no excuse for Sampson’s repeated absences in 2022 and made their decision in December of last year. For all of these 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.

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 denied that request.

Sampson fought hard but fails keep longshoreman job

Sampson first argued in a statement to the Bayonne Community News that the Waterfront Commission was taking its anger out on Sampson over issues that are above his pay grade. New Jersey, under Governor Phil Murphy, has sought to withdraw from the Waterfront Commission, founded in the 1950s to combat organized crime at the ports.

However, New York has sued to stop the withdrawal, sending the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a support brief from the United States has been filed in support of New Jersey’s decision. Sampson said that he was getting caught in the crossfire over the Commission’s dissatisfaction with the situation.

Following that, Sampson put out another statement to BCN that he was appealing to the Waterfront Commission to change their minds and that his work as a State Assemblyman justified his absenteeism. He said he had received approval from the Global Container Terminals of Bayonne and the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1588 before running for State Assembly, and that they never asked him to reduce any of his responsibilities at the State House to work more on the waterfront

On January 4, Sampson’s attorney Robert Flagella further argued that Sampson’s duties in the General Assembly are also part of serving his union, according to a PoliticoPro subscriber exclusive story. The argument comes after the Waterfront Commission wrote in their initial ruling revoking Sampson’s license that his duties as a state legislator did not meet “good cause” for repeated absences for his job as a crane operator at Global Container Terminals.

Amid the battle to stay in his longshoreman job, Sampson saw the support of the local union where he is a member and held the position of political director. The International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1588 voted on Jan. 4 at an emergency meeting to approve a resolution to assist him to the tune of $50,000 for legal and public relations support for the issue.

The Waterfront Commission previously said it would handle the matter by the end of the month. That has come to fruition with the Jan. 18 ruling reaffirming their original decision.

Local union backs Sampson, but Waterfront Commission not convinced

According to the New Jersey Monitor who broke the story, Waterfront Commissioners Paul Weinstein and Jennifer Davenport did not say why they voted against the motion to reconsider Sampson’s ouster. However, commission staff said the body would release a memorandum of decision outlining their reasoning at a later undetermined date.

Sampson nor the ILA Local 1588 responded to BCN requests for comment.

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.