An Open Letter to Edison Chouest Offshore and Gary Chouest


Is this serious? Someone really feels their company owes them so much?

Like it or not, heres the reality of life;
If you work for someone other than yourself, youre subject to their rules. They made a successful company and they can run it as they see fit, and they don’t owe you jack. Not even a job. The sooner you realize that, the easier life will be. Your options are to deal with it, work for yourself, or try collective bargaining.

( your best option is to shut up and eat the shit sandwich or move on. You picked them, not the other way around )


With regard to the OP, I read it as a report on feeling completely demoralized and more than a little betrayed and wondering how to get out of his trap (something better than nothing, but not the career he had worked and hoped for). Whiney? Yeah. Also pretty understandable.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job and that not all of my 7 years and $20k investment in hawsepiping was wasted. Some of it – DP Basic and Advanced for instance – are irrecoverable sunk costs, but so it goes. You don’t win every hand.

My experience with a union – my first in almost 30 years of employment – has been okay. Do I wish they did a little more for us and were more responsive? Sure. Am I happy that my pay increases every year, I have a contract that protects many of my rights and there is someone who ‘may’ go to bat for me if I get crosswise with management? Yep.

I make less towing than I made in the oilfield (but almost certainly not less than I would make offshore now) but I have a short even-time schedule and spend a lot more time with the family and living my life. I work with a varied cast of characters – local boys, Yankees and even a few coonasses – hawsepioers and academy grads, and generally it’s pleasant and low drama. Everyone knows what everyone else, even the owner’s kid, is making and how to make more (work over or get promoted – and the process for doing that also is the same for everyone).

And while I make less in my day rate than I did on an OSV, per my contract the company pays 100 percent of premiums to pretty decent, low-deductible health insurance for the entire family and contributes to a defined benefit pension plan that will pay me 40 percent off my annual gross at 20 years and 2 percent more per year after that.

Liike I said, the union is okay. The owners like it too, because it provides them with operating stability and predictibility and they essentially outsource most of their benefits administration.

What happened to turn workers in the South against unions? Well, we (or our parents) watched the American auto industry crumble in the 70s and 80s in the face of foreign competition, in part because the UAW went too far and stifled the domestic manufacturer’s ability to compete.

And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to observe that there may be some deep cultural bias against organized labor dating to the last really big disruption in the labor force down here. We ended up fighting a war over it.

Finally (!)), with all respect to Anchorman (who almost always presents well-researched and cogent arguments regarding the oil industry), I have to agree with the guys who say the fundamentals have changed and this “downturn” is not part of the usual boom/bust cycle. Living in Texas and being the son of a guy who was in the oil bidness my entire childhood and most of my adult life, I can recall vividly the cycles since at least the early 1970s.

Here is what has changed: We keep finding more oil, not less (is “peak oil” even a thing anymore?); the technology to efficiently recover hydrocarbons (and I include natural gas here, because that is huge for energy production, heating, etc.) continues to get better and cheaper; recovery technologies in deepwater likewise keep getting more efficient (GoM production rates continue to grow even as rig counts fall and legacy platforms are removed and boats remain stacked); China has pretty much ended it’s big transformation to an industrialized economy (and some other developing nation’s may skip that phase altogether); and the 800-lb gorilla, renewable energy technologies are maturing rapidly and becoming cost-competitive with even today’s cheap oil and gas.

There will, for a long time to come, be a need for boats and mariners in the Gulf, but I think we have seen the last big boom.

Population growth, the failure of the Saudi regime or a world war could all mitigate those trends, but I think the trends are there to see.

Given all that, I’m really happy to be doing a job I enjoy (I’m 48 years old and wear SHORTS to work, FFS), making more money than your average teacher or engineer (really, I just looked it up) and not worrying whether my job will be here next year or the year after.

And I guess this is my final word to the OP: Sometimes you have to know when you have enough, even if it would be kinda “nice” to have more.


All unions are going to have the principle-agent problem to some degree, it’s the nature of human organizations, ask my wife about her church group.

I was told flat out that if a master gets fired they union wouldn’t go to bat for them unless they had at least an 80% chance of winning. Makes sense, unions don’t have unlimited resources to fight everyone’s battles.


The Teamsters union fights like hell for every truck driver. The companies know that its a very expensive process to fire a driver. So, they learn to live with a lot of guys that they would prefer to fire. I bet it’s pretty expensive to fire a longshoreman too. Not saying that I agree with this. I don’t.

It’s been interesting to watch MEBA’s lack of effective action to protect the employees it was elected to represent in this Transatlantic debacle. Also, a nearly total failure to communicate with them. A really pathetic performance. After seeing this, I wouldn’t wipe my arse with a MEBA pledge card.


What union?


Sounds like SIU.


Yes, SIU.


I think it need be stated that there are two bad worlds here between which us US mariners find ourselves trapped…

the first is the world of the useless US maritime unions who DO NOT truly protect the interests of their mariners but rather use them to collect cash to pay bloated salaries to their executives. I was in the AMO during the Ray McKay years and their practices were so repugnant to me that I could not in any good conscience continue to fork over a percentage of my paycheck to them and their race horses, fancy houses, et all… I felt that the only way to get them to clean up their act was for every member to walk away leaving them without anyone to fulfill their contracts. Of course, that was unrealistic as there are always enough to overlook the union management’s selfserving way of operating and continue to accept the thin soup they end up getting.

The second is the world of the non union US vessel operator. Not all are terrible and I know many good companies which DO take care of their people. The mariners in these companies need no collective bargaining because they are offered better working conditions and pay than what would get with a union contract. That is the way it should be and I applaud these companies for seeing this. HOWEVER, there are just as many companies (ECO, TAL, et all) who use and abuse their mariners at every opportunity. A tiny company like TAL is so small that it is more of a blip on a screen but a behemoth the size of ECO is so big that its practices literally fill it with clutter. Again, my hope has been that enough mariners would become fed up with the ugly practices of ECO that they would refuse to work for Massa Gary but again unrealistic although I am glad to see someone step forward and decry the way the company treats its people (the bit about letting food rot because they have become disillusioned was childish though as should not have been included as it discredited the original poster’s words).

the one thing is that the power always has been in the hands of the mariners however we are not a collective with a single unified voice but only an bunch of unwashed rabble who will not see the forest for the trees. Someday after I am dead and gone some person with the personal charisma and leadership abilities might be able to gather the rabble into a collective with that one voice. I am losing all faith that I will see it because if it isn’t happening at a time like today when the bosses and unions both strive to undercut us mariners at every breath it is likely not ever going to happen. I wished I might be that leader but know I don’t have the political “right stuff” (mostly money, personal and media contacts) to even try. I really don’t know who out there does? I used to call on John to do this but know he won’t so I haven’t a clue who can or would?


The Teamsters are not as mighty as you may think . It is very much like txh2oman says in his post about A Master getting fired . If they believe that they are within at least an 80% chance of a win ,they will fight it .
If not then they will tell you to try some where else . Been there done that many years ago when they still had a majority of the trucking companies signed , it’s all about the $$ and how far they have to get into the issue to either prove a point , or win the case .
Just like we are seeing in todays shipping industry , The trucking industry took that route 30 yrs ago .More and more foreigner’s , Less $$ , and fewer jobs for even they devoted Union people .


TAL and their antics have well known for years and their officers could have unionized long, long ago but didn’t so it’s hard to see why anyone would think that MEBA should spend too much blood and treasure to advocate for their prospective pledges. The best that they can hope for is that MEBA give them C books and a break on the first couple quarters of dues, and if they are lucky immediate employment, which is more than generous especially now that the company is defunct and the ships are done trading.

Unions, in my experience, was a long play. As I said before I wanted the ability to advance my license, get exposure to as much of the industry I could and still not sacrifice continued ed, medical or pension. The owners owe you nothing but wages for your services and a safe work environment and when it’s over, it’s over. If there’s no work there’s no ships and there isn’t much the Union can do about that for you except provide an opportunity to find a spot to land and that’s not even guaranteed. Someday you might get a pension out of the deal, but that’s not guaranteed either.

Got to look out for #1 in this industry and I think that’s how it’s always been.


It would have taken little effort for MEBA to visit the ships, find out what’s going on, tell the crew what they could and couldn’t do for them, and get the crew ashore and home after they were abandoned. The cost to do these things is trivial. Instead MEBA just abandoned them too. TAL had basic employer’s duties to the crew; it breached them. MEBA also had a much higher fiduciary duty It’s members/pledges, it was supposed to be their reliable representative and protect them; it breached that duty.

To me, it’s about principles, and whether or not MEBA has any principles. The MEBA union thugs misconduct toward the TAL crew is much more dispicable than TAL’s. MEBA has pissed away its reputation.


Disagree. First I have a hard time believing that there was no communication between the union and the ships rep. Second, they were pledges, not dues paying members of good standing so they had nothing invested with the union, nada. If I was a member I would have been upset the Union was racking up legal fees and wasting treasure to relive TAL of its obligations to a bunch of mariners that might not ever walk into a MEBA hall again. The Unions first and foremost fiduciary responsibility to to support and represent their existing members who’s best interest is served by having a MEBA contracted ships pick up the dropped charters not to provide unlimited resources to a group of guys that read the writing on the wall and we’re looking for a place to land.

Not sure how MEBA shipping is on the deck side but last I heard it was pretty tight. Would the deck membership even approve to opening their already tight roles to 10 to 15 more guys? Remember the TAL ships are in limbo and probably are done trading, thus the jobs are gone. Now you have that many more guys competing for the few jobs that are there.

The couple times I’ve seen this with the AMO the ships were lost and everyone who signed a card or walked was given immediate employment which IMHO was very generous and proper. With MEBA shipping a lot of its deck officers through the MMP this might not be something they can do.

TAL was a shitbag company that should have unionized years ago, the guys didn’t and look at the result. It should serve as a warning to anyone in the same situation.


It serves as a warning that it is a very bad idea to sign MEBA pledge cards.

Legally, I think that MEBA as the elected representative has the same obligation to the pledges as it does to any other member. Maybe I’m wrong on that. I’m pretty well read on maritime law, but not labor law. It seems mostly likely to me that MEBA has the same obligation to the pledges.


That’s the one area I think MEBA is failing here. MEBA should find work for the officers that signed the pledge cards and were fired after the vote as well as the officers stuck onboard now.


Not at the expense of the membership because Pledges are just that, pledges. They are not rank and file members in good standing. By the time MEBA got involved there was little they could do the die was cast and and it was over. Once you don’t get paid, it’s over. Period. Anyone whose been going to sea knows that and that’s when I would have walked, ESPECIALLY if there was no union involved. It’s a lot to ask you brand new union brothers to spend thousands of dollars to recover your lost wages (probably half the amount you’d spend in court) that you earned before you were even in the union. Sometimes you gotta cut bait.

TAL should have Unionized years ago. Had they been MEBA members all along the company still might have gone belly up, just along time ago with out sailors waiting for payoff and they would have had the protection the union affords. Instead they Unionized when it was clearly over and way too late for MEBA to do anything but waste its limited resources (no they are not infinite). Much easier to tell the guys to find their way off and register in the Hall and start their union careers in earnest with the lesson learned.

Again this should serve as a warning. If your working for a sketchy outfit and chose to turn down the pledge card don’t think the union can save you after the 2:00 warning. You need to join when things are good so your protected when things go bad. Kinda like your car insurance.


Lets be honest… Most willingly left when 28/14 happened. Hints all the hiring they have to do now.


Vane laid off close to 200


I am in the ILA local 350, not by choice, it was a condition of employment. Even the mighty ILA is not what it used to be. There are some cushy gigs in Port Newark/Elizabeth but most of the members there are earning their money, which is not all that great.

Our local offers no health or dental benefits, no hiring hall, no education they simply take our dues. The only benefits we get are indirect such as being able to work union jobsites, and we can file for unemployment online instead of in person.

They also secured us a whopping 3% raise this contract. Maybe I’ll buy a new car with the money.


last year when i got laid off i was able to file online. I am in california though, didn’t realize other states made you do it in person.


I’d bet most, if not all, states have you told online now