Assemblyman William Sampson IV (D-Bayonne) has lost his license to work as a port crane operator at for excessive absenteeism after the Waterfront Commission of New York and New Jersey rejected his claim that his legislative duties was a valid excuse for not showing up.
The 33-year-old Hudson County Democrat had been an employee of Global Container Terminal in Bayonne but claimed that “his attendance at particular meetings or events in his capacity as a New Jersey State Assemblyman was ‘good cause’ for his absences, the commission said in an order issued on December 21.
“Sampson failed to present sufficient evidence that attendance at particular events was mandatory to serve as a New Jersey State Assemblyman. He acknowledged a possibility that, on certain dates, he could have attended the events and still worked later on those days as a longshoreman,” the Waterfront Commission order stated. “He also misstated his role as a speaker at one event.”
But Sampson says the move was politically motivated and that he and his union plan to appeal.
In 2021, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis unilaterally dropped his support for Assembly Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) for re-election in the 31st legislative district and instead backed Sampson, who had been an official at the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1588, for the seat. Hudson County Democrats backed up Davis’ decision, citing a long-standing policy of allowing the mayor of Bayonne to pick one State Assembly member in the district.
“Commitments to outside employment, which prevent a longshoreman from meeting the work requirements at the pier, are inconsistent with the Commission’s mandate to eliminate casual workers from the register,” The Waterfront Commission decision stated. “Sampson’s employment as a New Jersey State Assemblyman does not insulate him from his responsibilities as a longshoreman.”
The freshman lawmaker testified at a Waterfront Commission hearing on his license, which involved his absenteeism from January through June of 2022.
Sampson took office on January 11, 2022. Except for meetings of the Assembly Budget Committee, which Sampson does not serve on, the Assembly was in recess from March 25 to May 6. The commission found that Sampson “failed to present any evidence to justify his absences in February 2022.”
“Sampson testified that he had ‘no particular reason’ for not working or making himself available for work on Saturdays,” the panel stated.
The decision to pull Sampson’s license was unanimous, with Commissioner Jennifer Davenport, a former first assistant state attorney general and Gov. Phil Murphy’s appointee to the Waterfront Commission, supporting the measure.
Sampson slammed the Waterfront Commission, blaming a move by the state to disband the panel that will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court early next year.
“It’s unfortunate that the Waterfront Commission has decided to take out its frustrations over the State of New Jersey’s efforts to remove itself from its jurisdiction on me, but I will not let this unfortunate action deter me from fighting for working families in Hudson County and throughout our state. I’m proud to be a blue collar, union worker and I will always fight for my brothers and sisters in labor,” Sampson told the New Jersey Globe. “I along with the ILA International will be working to appeal this decision to allow me to continue working in the industry as I have my whole life. I believe that this decision is not only legally incorrect but contains numerous factual errors.”
This story was updated at 12:37 PM with comment from Sampson.