[B]A first time for everything[/B]
This is the year of the unprecedented development in American Maritime Officers. My longtime friend Tom Bethel became the first AMO official targeted for impeachment under the AMO National Constitution and was the first AMO official named in an ethics complaint under our union’s official policy guide. Now I’m the first AMO employee ever to seek election to the office of AMO national president.
This was no easy decision. The AMO presidency is not something I ever aspired to. But I’m in my 42[SUP]nd[/SUP] year of service to AMO — a union I was literally raised with — and I’m afraid AMO will not endure four more years of structural and financial instability under Tom’s muddled leadership as national president — and, believe me, it hurts me to define Tom’s recent tenure this way.
I’ve seen dramatic, disheartening change in Tom since his re-election by a 36-vote margin in 2010. He has abandoned the ideals he brought with him into office under controversial circumstances in 2007. He has shed his image as an open, inclusive democratic reformer, and he has enabled laziness, indifference, incompetence, extravagance and self-interest at other administrative levels in our union. Tom has in many cases made a strong work ethic and a real commitment to the seagoing AMO membership quaint, even foolish notions.
Meanwhile, chronic operating budget deficits, rapidly declining dues revenue and staggering financial losses in questionable real estate transactions strain AMO at the seams.
Further substantial loss on Tom’s watch resulted from a poorly planned media drive entrusted in 2013 to an incompetent consultant. Four consecutive AMO executive board meetings have passed without this vanity-driven waste discussed, and there are indications that this stealth spending continues.
In addition, Tom’s new nepotism lards the payroll — which accounts for 60 percent of our union’s budget — with unproductive, unqualified personnel.
Under all of these circumstances, the Bethel administration is forced to tap investment accounts often to pay the bills — and withdrawals to cover routine expenses or to pay salaries mean smaller account balances and lost earning potential as the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 ride record highs.
The prospect of real recovery is dimmed by the alarming and steady loss of deep-sea ships — at least 14 in the first half of this year alone — and by the attendant loss of jobs, the number of which now stands at its lowest in years.
AMO Plans — the benefit funds that serve all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters members and their families — fare no better with Tom Bethel as our union’s lead trustee. Ships lost to the AMO fleet represent multiple millions in employer contributions to all of these funds.
Despite these truths, Tom Bethel’s response is to encourage the [I]perception[/I] of prosperity, as he did during the AMO executive board meetings held at AMO headquarters in Dania Beach the week of June 23. His attitude appears to be that all is well if he can make everyone believe all is well.
On other fronts, Tom manipulates and interprets the AMO National Constitution to consolidate his power and limit meaningful checks and balances. In a direct affront to every AMO member, Tom now claims absolute authority to defy democratic principle, to nullify secret ballot union-wide elections when the outcome was not what he wanted, to keep AMO officials defeated in union-wide elections on the payroll indefinitely, and to deny the Great Lakes AMO membership representation on our union’s executive board.
Finally, Tom cheapens the conversation in AMO by responding to questions and comments he finds uncomfortable with angry filibusters — speaking loud and long and saying nothing. He often mocks his perceived critics as “idiots,” “morons” or “retards,” no matter how thoughtful their comments or how fair their questions.
These are among the issues I’ll discuss as a son of a founding AMO member during this campaign, and I’ll provide specific, simple and straightforward ways to make things right, to restore responsibility, common sense, credibility and dignity to our union. Some remedies are more difficult than others, but each will be pursued as a mission in the same way the founding membership put ease and expediency aside to do what they had to do for the cause.
I know how Tom Bethel will respond to this, and I’m ready for a lively and ultimately essential exchange. I’m also ready to let Tom and you know what qualifies me to serve in the critical office of national president of American Maritime Officers in this critical time.
Again, this is not something I do casually or happily. Tom and I worked closely together for many years on many important matters. No one was more loyal to Tom Bethel than I. No one admired Tom’s once-keen instinct more than I. And no one was more protective of Tom’s political interests than I. But I’ve given this a lot of thought — my decision to run is in itself a measure of how disappointing Tom Bethel has become as national president since his narrow win four years ago.
To borrow an AMO newspaper column closer I coined for Tom Bethel, “As always, I welcome your comments and questions.”