To explore the origin of the word “Longshoremen,” we will begin with the roots of the ILA. The roots of the International Longshoremen’s Association lie deep in the history of colonial America when the arrival of each new ship bearing goods from the Old World was greeted with cries for “Men ‘long shore!” The longshoremen who rushed up to the ships were colonists, normally engaged in any number of full-time occupations. In the first hard years of life in this country, they left their occupations freely to unload the anxiously awaited, sometimes desperately needed, supplies without pay. As the new land began to develop a fledgling economy, and the ships were too many to count, the men were drawn to the shores by the extra money they could earn stevedoring precious cargo on and off the ships.
As the nation matured, European imperialism gave birth to exploitative mercantilist trade practices. Land was no longer cheap or easy to get, and many new immigrants congregated in the cities, hoping to find work amid the bustle, especially along the coast, where the bulk of the growing country’s business was still being done. The number of professional longshoremen grew by thousands.