Antonella Manieri, ILA Member from Local 1814 in Brooklyn Adds Another Powerful Response to Biased New York Post Article Written By Jennifer Fermino
Dear Ms. Fermino,
I am not going to sit here and write you a letter to explain how you failed at being a journalist. I am going to try and enlighten you on the importance of researching a topic to avoid writing an extremely biased article.
You begin your article "Wrong-shoreman" by calling me greedy. I have been a longshoreman for almost 8 years now. This wasn't my childhood dream nor did I have generations of family members working in the industry. I am a licensed Special Education teacher, with dual Bachelor degrees from NYU and with a Master's degree focusing on Mathematics. You see the difference between us is I didn't have connections to get the right job like you did. I took a dangerous job so I could be responsible and pay my bills, the American way. I am not sitting at a desk every day, or any day for that matter. I am not wearing a cardigan because the air conditioner may be set on low today in the office. I cannot pick up the phone to have a conversation with a friend because I run the risk of being crushed by machinery if I am not paying attention. I will not be sleeping in my bed tonight and I cannot tell you when the next time I will see my bed will be.
So what am I actually doing? I am looking for heavy duty gloves to avoid cuts & grease. I am trying to find a mask to go over my face to avoid breathing in hazardous material in shipping containers. I am putting on my steel-toe boots because losing fingers and limbs isn't all that uncommon here. I am bundling up for subzero degree weather. I am preparing to stand outside in the rain, hail, & snow all while making sure machine operators, who have been forced to work 40+ hours straight, are awake and will not accidentally run me over. I am wrapping wet paper towels around my neck so I don't pass out from heat exhaustion in 100 degree weather under the blazing sun. I am lifting luggage in a timely fashion so people like you can enjoy your vacation on a cruise ship. I am battling depression after being alone for endless hours with nothing but my own thoughts. I am driving home while falling asleep. I am pretending my car is just as comfortable as my bed. I am sleeping in hourly intervals. I am getting dinner at a vending machine this evening. I am crash dieting with energy drinks, coffee, and protein bars. I am standing next to my coworker who is lying on the floor bleeding. I am waking up and being put on a stretcher after being hit by a forklift. I am constantly taking medication because I cannot afford to get sick. I am daydreaming about having a normal schedule with normal relationships with people off the pier. I am going to physical therapy to help the painful herniated discs on my back. I am ruining my bladder because there is not a bathroom anywhere in sight and there is no pause button at work. I am looking in the mirror and staring at all the different bruises I get on my body each day. I am not making 400K a year, or anything close to that, and I never will. I am helping my father pay his endless medical bills. I am paying all my student loans & maintaining my licenses so I will get to work with children with special needs one day. I am worrying about the future. I am stressing about my work brothers and sisters losing jobs because of automation. I am praying that I, along with my coworkers, will always be able to provide for their families. I am missing my own family. I am reading articles like yours and feeling underappreciated. I am everything but greedy.
I could go on and on. I could bore you with statistics. I could discuss some of the greatest, most unselfish people I have ever met on the piers. I could write about the sacrifices we all make to maintain our yearly hours just to earn medical benefits for the next year. I could offer you some insight on what it's like having a job with zero sick or personal days, but none of it will matter. Instead I can only offer advice for your upcoming articles. Avoid being influenced by movies like Goodfella's and Scarface, these are movies not documentaries of real life and especially not of pier life. Avoid TV shows like The Soprano's, you have written several articles about longshoremen in which you depict us as driving an Escalade truck to work while throwing money in the air, smoking Cuban cigars, and wearing pinstripe Armani suits. And lastly, be wary watching cartoons as they can also be dangerous. For instance after great research it turns out, Duck Tales wasn't based on a longshoreman's life. Longshoremen do not have vaulted rooms in their mansions in which they dive into mounds of gold coins and swim in piles of money all while getting paid around the clock, as I am sure you envision.
Everything you eat, wear, drive, look at every day is thanks to a longshoreman; show some appreciation and respect. To be honest with you, I don't need an apology from you. I feel you owe it to the families that have lost a loved one, the ones that have lost body parts, the ones that will never get to speak to their loved ones again, the families that have suffered with worry endless nights, and the human beings that contemplate suicide daily because it is a rough, lonely life we live. For all of those people, you should be ashamed of yourself.