NEW YORK New York and New Jersey’s cargo terminals shut down on Friday after thousands of longshoremen walked off the job, shuttering one of the country’s busiest port networks.
The employees stopped working around 11 a.m. (1600 GMT). It was not immediately clear what had prompted the walkout.
In a statement, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the terminals, urged members of the International Longshoremen’s Association to “return to work immediately and resolve their differences after they return.”
Port Authority police were dispatched to the terminals to ensure public safety, the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the New York Shipping Association, which represents the terminal operators, said the longshoremen had not informed management of the “illegal” walkout.
“We don’t even know why,” said Beverly Fedorko. An emergency meeting between the union and management will take place at 3 p.m., she said.
A spokesman for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The walkout affects several terminals, including Port Newark and terminals in Elizabeth, New Jersey; Bayonne, New Jersey; and the New York City borough of Staten Island.
The port system is the third busiest in the United States and has 3,500 registered longshoremen, Fedorko said, although the number of workers on duty per day fluctuates depending on ships and other factors.
The terminals annually handle nearly six million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, according to the Port Authority. A standard 40-foot container equals two TEUs.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)