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Newark Mayor Leads Protest for More Port Jobs for Residents

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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City officials and other activists staged a motorcade protest Monday to demand more jobs for Newark residents at the main hub of the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Mayor Ras Baraka led the protest, in which dozens of city and privately owned vehicles drove on roadways near the hub, bringing traffic to a temporary halt in some areas and causing travel delays in other nearby areas.

The event was staged after a judge refused to block the protest. The Port Authority had argued that the motorcade would lead to logistical and safety concerns for police officers in the wake of recent police shootings. The judge, though, directed the agency and Newark police to devise a safety plan for the motorcade, which a city spokesman says involved more than 100 vehicles.

Baraka launched the protest with an address on the steps of City Hall, where he renewed his calls for the International Longshoreman's Association to end what he claimed are discriminatory practices in hiring. He said the union has failed to address gender and ethnic inequalities in its employment practices, claiming that only one union local currently gives minorities a fair chance for employment.

"We have right to voice our concerns about this," Baraka said. "No corporation, no quasi-public entity will stop us from raising our voices when it needs to be raised. We want to make sure this port is diverse."

The union has disputed Baraka's claims, saying the mayor relies on misleading statistics.

The New York Shipping Association likewise disputed Baraka's claims, saying it has made great strides in assembling a more diverse workforce, particularly with regards to veterans, minorities and women. The agency also said that since 2013 it has hired 71 Newark residents - representing 11 percent of new employees in that time. More than 60 percent of all newly hired workers since 2014 have identified as minorities, it said.

The association represents terminal operators, ocean carriers, stevedores and marine-related businesses that operate the ships, move the cargo, and train and employ the port's longshore workers.

Baraka said he will help organize more protests until the hiring demands are met.