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With Port of Baltimore fully reopened, longshoremen move toward normalcy

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Posted at 9:18 PM, Jun 26, 2024

DUNDALK, Md. — Three months ago, on Wednesday, the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed, leaving six men dead and leaving the work of thousands of Baltimore longshoremen up in the air.

"[I have] never seen anything like this in my career on the waterfront," Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, recalled in an interview with WMAR-2 News.

ILA Local 333 represents about 2,000 port workers. The Port of Baltimore, Cowan said, was doing tremendously well before the bridge went down.

The port, as of two weeks ago, is fully open again but not quite back to full activity.

"Still, some of the lower seniority folks," Cowan described, "it's hard for them to get work right now, depending on what the ship schedule looks like and how the work's coming in. Our container traffic is still down, and that's a big driver for us. That's going to make a big difference when that comes back in the next several weeks."

Cowan hopes to be at pre-March 26 levels by the end of the summer.

Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, Cowan took the podium alongside leaders commemorating the full reopening of the port. Though state aid through the 'PORT Act' worker support program helped make up for losses, some workers dipped into their retirement. Cowan has had conversations about resolving penalties and deferring taxes in light of the emergency.

READ MORE: "I've been waiting to say this every day for the last 11 weeks": Port of Baltimore back open

"The folks now that had to use that retirement funds—they're having to pay a penalty as it sits now and cannot defer taxes on it. So I'm hopeful that will still happen for them—that's a big thing to them," Cowan told WMAR.

With the Dali gone from our waters and docked in Norfolk, the cargo ship is now out of the port's sight. When it hit the Key Bridge, Cowan said dock workers from all over the world checked in. Cowan is thankful for those folks and the folks here at home who reached out with their support.

It's been a trying three months, but his workers will soldier on.

"They're doing okay, could be better, and it could be a lot worse too. We're thankful for the help we got; we're thankful the cargo's starting to come back, and we're going to get back on our feet, and we're going to be okay," Cowan concluded.

This Friday, June 28, will be the last day port workers can apply for state aid, the Maryland Department of Labor announced.