Kenny Riley and Black Union Labor Power in the Port of Charleston


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About the Book

Their ancestors may have been cargo in the slave ships that arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Today, the scale has been rebalanced: black longshoremen run the port’s cargo operation. They are members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, a powerful labor union, and Kenny Riley is the charismatic leader of the Charleston local. Riley combines commitment to the civil rights movement with the practicality to ensure that Charleston remains a principal East Coast port. He emerged on the international stage in 2000, rallying union members worldwide to the defense of “The Charleston Five,” longshoremen arrested after a confrontation with police turned violent. This is Riley’s story as well as a behind-the-scenes look at organized black labor in a Deep South port.

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About the Author(s)

Former Miami Herald reporter, Ted Reed is a business and labor writer. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

John Yurechko is a retired senior government military analyst. He lives in Locust Grove, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Ted Reed and John J. Yurechko

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7772-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3928-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface by Ted Reed 1
Introduction 3
1. We Lived in Our Own Little World 9
2. Getting an Education, Separate Not Equal 21
3. Charleston the Slave Port 31
4. A City Is Born: It Grows on the Backs of Slaves 38
5. The War for Freedom Leaves Many Enslaved 48
6. South Carolina Declares War on the United States 54
7. ­Ex-Slaves Form a Labor Union and It Folds 65
8. Charleston Rots and Then Rebounds 74
9. George Washington German Brings the Union Back 82
10. On the Waterfront 93
11. Containers Take Over the World 103
12. A Sixties Kid Takes Over Local 1422 113
13. A World Beyond Charleston 120
14. The Charleston Five 130
15. Lessons Learned from the Charleston Five 139
16. A Charleston Guy Finds Allies in New York and San Francisco 150
17. The Family Politics of Local 1422 159
18. For Labor, South Carolina Is Tough, but “The Union Is Anomalous” 168
19. Riley Looks to Retirement 179
Chapter Notes 187
Bibliography 197
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Ted Reed’s eagerness to cover stories untold and keen eye for detail create an amazing understanding of the intrinsic role labor unions play in making transportation industries work. I can’t think of anyone better to tackle the legacy of Kenny Riley’s transformative leadership as a powerful black labor leader in the heart of the anti-union South.”—Sara Nelson, international president, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO

• “Few writers understand the labor movement like Ted Reed does. He recognizes that any company’s most important asset is its people. Kenny Riley is one of the greatest labor leaders the Machinists Union has had the pleasure to work with over the years. His fights in Charleston on behalf of his members have benefitted all working families throughout the region.”—Sito Pantoja, International Association of Machinists