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How do you get into the lottery for longshoreman?

Becoming a longshoreman and working on the docks is a desirable job for many seeking solid wages and benefits. However, getting into the longshoreman profession is competitive and requires going through an application and lottery process. There are requirements that must be met to qualify for the lottery, and once selected, there is extensive training involved before working on the docks. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the steps involved in getting into the longshoreman lottery and securing a coveted spot working on the waterfront.

Understanding the Role of a Longshoreman

Longshoremen, also known as dockworkers or stevedores, are the workers responsible for loading and unloading cargo ships as they enter and leave various seaports. Their primary duties include loading and unloading containers and bulk cargo like automobiles, grain, coal, and other products. Longshoremen operate cranes and other heavy machinery to move cargo on and off ships and transport these items around the dock. The role requires physical strength and stamina as well as skills operating mechanical equipment. Most longshoremen are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

In addition to cargo handling work on the docks, longshoremen may also be involved in other port-related jobs like directing ship movement, rigging gear, and maintenance and repair work. The job generally provides stable and decent pay along with health, retirement, and other union-negotiated benefits. With the right training and willingness to work varying shifts, longshoreman offers a career path valued by many seeking employment in ports and harbors.

Longshoreman Lottery Process

Gaining employment as a longshoreman involves going through an application and lottery process handled by the local port authority. The process varies slightly by location but generally involves the following steps:

– Meeting basic eligibility requirements like being at least 18-21 years old, able to perform physical labor, and having a reliable transportation. Some ports may require residence in a certain geographic area. Criminal background checks are also conducted.

– Completing the longshoreman lottery application during open enrollment periods, which only occur every few years or when additional workers are needed. This involves providing contact information, work history, and references.

– If application is accepted, your name is entered into a random lottery. Lotteries may have thousands of applicants competing for just a handful of openings.

– If selected through the lottery, you are placed on a list and called up for further processing when openings occur. This may take months or years.

– Upon call up, you undergo a full background check, drug screening, and meet with union delegates. If approved, you are sworn in as a union member.

– Finally, you enter a training program covering dock operations, equipment use, and safety procedures. You must pass exams to graduate and be cleared to start working shifts on the docks.

The longshoreman lottery process ensures fair hiring opportunities for a wide range of applicants interested in this labor-intensive but rewarding dockwork profession. While obtaining one of the limited positions takes luck, proper preparation by meeting qualifications and learning about the role can better your chances.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the longshoreman lottery, applicants must meet some basic eligibility criteria. While specific requirements vary between different ports, general qualifications include:

– **Minimum age** – Most ports require applicants to be at least 18-21 years old. Some go up to 25 years old. Applicants must prove they have reached the minimum age.

– **Able to perform physical labor** – Longshore work involves heavy lifting, climbing, bending, and other demanding tasks. Applicants must attest to their physical capabilities. Some ports require demonstrations.

– **Reliable transportation** – Getting to the ports for varying shifts requires a vehicle. Applicants need reliable transportation to work.

– **Background checks** – Applicants must consent to criminal history checks and possibly drug testing. Convictions for certain felonies may disqualify applicants.

– **Legal work status** – Proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. is required, such as social security cards and valid visas for non-citizens.

– **Local residency** – Some ports require applicants live in surrounding counties or states to minimize travel. Lotteries are sometimes divided by geographic zones.

Ensuring you meet these baseline eligibility criteria is key to qualifying and standing the best chance in the lottery selection process. Lying or omitting information can get applicants rejected or removed later. Eligibility is focused on identifying responsible candidates able to handle the demands of being a longshoreman.

Completing the Lottery Application

Longshoreman lotteries are only opened periodically as determined by port authorities. When a lottery is announced, interested applicants must act quickly to complete and submit their application materials. The application periods are relatively short, such as 30-45 days, so readiness is key. The following are key steps in completing the application:

– **Obtain the application** – Application instructions and forms are made available through port authorities during the enrollment periods. They may be distributed at outreach events or found on port authority websites.

– **Provide contact information** – Supply your full legal name, mailing address, phone number, email, and other details. This ensures you can be reached regarding your status.

– **List work history** – Include employment background, especially any related experience in shipping, transportation, manual labor, equipment operation, etc. However, no direct experience is required.

– **Gather reference contacts** – Provide names and contact information for professional or personal references who can speak to your capabilities and character.

– **Attest to qualifications** – Affirm you meet eligibility criteria like minimum age, physical ability, transportation access, etc. Supporting documents may be required.

– **Consent for checks** – Agree to allow background checks to move forward in the lottery process.

– **Submit by deadline** – Send completed paper applications by mail or online submissions by the cut-off date to enter the lottery. Late applications may not be accepted.

Meticulously completing all sections demonstrating you meet qualifications is imperative. If materials are missing or inadequate, your lottery entry could be rejected. Pay close attention to instructions and reach out for assistance if needed to avoid mistakes.

The Lottery Selection Process

Once the application period closes, all eligible applicants are entered into a random lottery. Lottery drawings aim to give everyone an equal shot at limited longshoreman openings. Lotteries are typically weighted by geographic zones if residency requirements apply. A few key aspects:

– Lotteries are conducted publicly under supervision of port officials, and may use numbered ping pong balls or computer-generated lists.

– The number of openings determines how many applicants will be selected at random. Only a small fraction of total applicants will be picked.

– Applicants drawn are placed on a list by number. They will be called up for further processing in order based on workforce needs.

– Selected applicants are notified by mail and asked to confirm their continued interest. Non-responses may forfeit their selection.

– The full lottery list remains active for a set period, often 3-5 years. New classes are called up as needed.

– Applicants not chosen must reapply at the next lottery enrollment to be reconsidered if openings and funding allow.

While the lottery format is designed for fairness, luck plays a big role. Persistence through multiple application cycles may be necessary. However, those selected can move closer towards beginning their longshoreman career if they remain engaged through the process.

Getting Called Up from the Lottery List

Being chosen in the lottery is the critical first step. But it still may take months or years before your number is called up for final processing. Timing depends on factors like:

– Openings at the ports based on volume of ship traffic and retirements
– Funding availability for new training programs
– Background check and drug test processing capacities

When you are called up from the lottery list, be ready to comply with requests from the port authority:

– **Confirm interest** – Notify if still interested in pursuing longshore work when contacted.

– **Complete paperwork** – Fill out additional forms that may be required.

– **Interview** – Attend any conducted interviews to assess suitability.

– **Background check** – Consent to and pass an extensive criminal history background check.

– **Drug testing** – Take and pass required drug tests that are likely short-notice.

– **Medical evaluation** – Complete any medical examinations if physical capacity is in question.

– **Union approval** – Get voted on by current union delegates following internal guidelines.

Moving quickly through these steps maintains your selection status but also ensures you are fully qualified for the duties ahead. If any issues arise, your position may be forfeited.

Training Program for New Longshoremen

Upon final call up and processing, new longshoremen are sworn in as union members. The final major step is completing the initial job training course to learn procedures and safety before active duty. Key aspects of the training programs:

– **Classroom courses** – Attend multi-week programs covering union history, dock operations, cargo handling, equipment use, and hazard communications.

– **Practical training** – Receive hands-on instructions for operating various common machinery like top loaders, fork lifts, and cranes.

– **Safety drills** – Practice emergency response and rescue skills through simulations.

– **Examinations** – Pass written and practical exams demonstrating retention of knowledge and skills.

– **Mentorships** – Be paired with veteran longshoremen for on-the-job coaching and evaluation.

– **Probationary period** – Enter initial phase of employment on probation while skills are perfected.

Dedicated participation is vital to graduate training ready for duty. Those who fail assessments or exhibit lacking capabilities may have employment terminated. Support is available to help trainees succeed in their transition into longshore work.

Getting Assignments as a Longshoreman

Upon successful training completion, new longshoremen are ready to begin working shifts and earning a consistent income. However, the assignment process comes with further procedures:

– **Join dispatch hall** – Report to dispatch center for your port terminal to enter the workforce pool. This governs shift assignments.

– **Work registration** – Sign up for number of hours willing/able to work each quarter to aid planning.

– **Get dispatches** – Assignments are handed out daily based on seniority. New longshoremen get remaining shifts.

– **Earn seniority** – Seniority accrues over time through hours worked. This provides access to more days and preferred shifts.

– **Qualify for roles** – Get certified over first few years to handle specialized cargo or operate equipment like large cranes.

While new longshoremen must be willing to work irregular, long shifts doing general labor, greater regularity and responsibility comes with time. The initial years are an opportunity to prove capabilities and gain mission-critical experience under guidance of seasoned professionals.


Becoming a longshoreman through the lottery application and training process requires fortitude and patience. But those able to persist through the long road can gain entry into a prestigious trade offering livable wages, benefits, and decades of career opportunities. The random lottery format levels the playing field for all applicants committed to securing this life-changing chance to work on the docks. Ensure you meet all noted eligibility criteria, complete accurate application materials, continue monitoring your status over years if needed, comply with all final processing, and dedicate yourself to the intensive training. Staying eager and determined against the odds of selection is vital to ultimately transitioning from applicant to active longshoreman. With the right mindset and qualifications, the lottery provides the chance to achieve this dream occupation.