Just after the Civil War, former slaves organized (LPUA) The Longshoremen’s Protective Union Association. The L.P.U.A. was organized in 1869, and through a series of strikes for wages and against a poll tax, forced shippers to pay union wages. The example set by the longshoremen in Charleston took hold, sick and black unions were formed. It was in this same year of 1869, that black workers gathered in Baltimore to form a permanent labor organization in Maryland. They had decided to use a double strategy – to form their own unions, but also to fight for inclusion in the white unions. The Charleston LPUA was a political force in post-reconstruction politics, and helped establish the United Labor Party in 1887 to challenge the Republican Party. Gov. Ben Tillman’s election in 1890 resurrected the Democrats as the party of white supremacy, and marked the end of the dockworkers’ political influence until the late 1930s.
George Washington German,
Founder of ILA Local 1422 AFL-CIO
Born May 30th, 1897
Died December 26, 1972
During the first three decades of the 1900?s the fall of cotton and the rise of railroads ushered the Charleston docks into a period of disuse, and disrepair. George German the grandson of a slave, followed his father’s footsteps to become a stevedore. He returned to the waterfront after serving with the army in World War I. He then joined the old local # 1020. Local # 1020 folded in 1921 and for fifteen years dock workers were unorganized. In 1936, German, a man with a fifth grade education reorganize the dock workers on Charleston Waterfront. In that same year on June 16th, 1936 Local 1422 was chartered under the I.L.A. Hourly pay at that time was 15 cents an hour. The Charleston Post and Courier referred to Mr. German as the undisputed boss of Charleston Longshoremen.
Just as much of the ILA’s pre-1960?s centered on George German, 1422 president Kenneth Riley has lead the ideological and political renovation of Local 1422 over the last 20 years. A product of one of the first integrated high schools in Charleston, Riley graduated in 1971. In 1975 while still in college, Riley joined Local 1422, following his father into the longshore industry. In 1977 Riley graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Business and joined the union full-time. One year later, Riley was elected trustee of Local 1422 and in 1991 he was elected Vice President. “Kenny” Riley was elected President of ILA Local 1422 in 1997.