The MEBA has been a hot topic on the forum lately. Since there is an ATC Union vote for the deck officers coming up soon, I figured that since I am a Group 1 MEBA Mate and also on the Pass-Through agreement with MMP I have a unique perspective on both unions.
I personally believe MEBA is a better union for ATC Officers and here is why
- Better pension and easier to obtain.
I have sailed with MEBA senior officers in their late 40s talking about retirement or starting a second career. On the flip side I have sailed with MMP senior officers nearing 67 who can’t retire because they don’t have enough time for a full pension. Come to find out not all MMP companies pay into their pension and the MMP pension is based on years of service and age which takes way longer to obtain despite its payout being a lot lower. Every MEBA Deck contract counts towards pension time and does not factor in age only credit years. The officers in or nearing their 60s with the MEBA I have sailed with, are choosing to sail whether it is for their daughter’s college tuition etc. but nonetheless they could retire with a pension if they wanted to.
- OSG will never sign on to the MMP pension plan
The MMP pension is underfunded and OSG would never sign on to an underfunded pension plan. So ATC would most likely not get a pension if they went with MMP. The MEBA pension is fully funded and OSG is already a signatory to it.
- Group 1 MEBA is better than A Book MMP
ATC mates should be aware that MMP has barriers for taking permanent jobs. For some jobs with MMP your book seniority means nothing because you might need a company specific class that is only offered at MITAGs. With MEBA there are no company specific classes you have to take. If you want a permanent Chief Mate job with Maersk and there is an opening, you can take it that day and keep if for as long as you want. MMP you might be restricted to a relief hitch or not be able to take it at all despite having an A Book because you don’t have the company specific class. At MEBA you aren’t forced to take two weeks out of your vacation to go take a company specific class to take a job. On another note MEBA also doesn’t force mates to take a union indoctrination class and a union bridge simulation class for membership like MMP does.
- Smaller tighter knit community of Deck Officers
MEBA is a smaller group within MEBA and is honestly the best kept secret in the US Maritime Industry. I have never had to wait more than a day in a hall besides one time when a ship was delayed due to a COVID scare. I also never had to “compete” for a job either which is shocking but true. Its most likely because MEBA mates tend to be more honest and transparent. For example, when an applicant 3rd mate asked me about a job I told him when it was being called but also called and texted around to make sure no one else with a higher group card was going to take it. I didn’t want him to waste his time spending money going to a hall just to get beat out for it. You’ll be hard pressed to find the same treatment from MMP mates but you can’t blame them for obviously are trying to protect their best jobs for their friends especially when there is way more competition in their union and the divide between good and bad jobs is significant. ATC mates should also know that there are cliques within the MMP. Meanwhile MEBA mates are more or less just one clique. I also don’t know many MEBA mates that live near a hall but this is probably because there are a lot of good jobs that just simply go open board and there are more permanent positions. Hell you might never see an MEBA mate at a hall. I also know MEBA mates including myself that have flown in to take a job and then flew home the same day. Don’t ever try that with MMP, the chances of a job being called magically late after some more mates have shown up happens. Expect the MMP dispatcher will scrutinize your paperwork trying to get you disqualified. Be prepared to spend some serious cash and time at MMP halls even for Chief Mate work. If you are with MEBA you won’t have these headaches.
- MEBA has more permanent jobs with consistent rotations
MMP has no deep-sea contracts that have an entire permanent crew and none absolutely none with permanent junior officers. MEBA has full or partial permanent crew on most contracts. Fully permanent deck crew including junior officers include Chevron, Interlake and NCL. While other contracts are mostly permanent like Keystone which only has rotary 3rd Mates. Or Liberty that allows 1 permanent 3rd mate and 1 permanent 2nd mate per ship. Or Maersk that has 1 permanent 2nd mate per ship. All MEBA contracts have senior officers who are permanent but also able to call for reliefs if they want to take a trip off. MEBA has allows for shorter hitches both in rotary positions and permanents. The average rotary job in MEBA is 90 with MMP it is almost always 120. For MEBA permanents I know it varies by contract and what the mates decided during negotiations. For example, NCL mates do 70 hitches, Maersk 90, Keystone 45-90 depending on what you and your relief want to do.
- Electronic job clearing
If MMP is allowing ATC to keep their permanent jobs even for junior officers and allowing them to clear the hall electronically like MEBA is offering this would be a first ever for MMP. I am almost certain senior officers with permanent jobs within MMP have to go into a hall to clear. Unlike MEBA which has contracts like Keystone where you can clear the hall electronically so if you live in Montana and are a permanent you wouldn’t have to venture to a hall before returning to a ship like MMP guys do.
- MEBA is more transparent
Trying to get the wages and benefit numbers on a MEBA contract is easy. The representative in the hall will show you the binder that has them all laid out for each position on the ship. It’s easy to see and straight forward and you can flip through the binder to look at other companies as well. With MMP good luck. There may be some old contracts laying around from 10 years ago. They might tell you the new wages only after giving you a hard time but some will only verbally tell you rather than print them out. Try to ask an MMP dispatcher about the benefits like how much is going towards MPB (they call it IRAP) they won’t know and might take hours for them to get it from headquarters if they are even willing to help you out.
- The representatives with the MEBA are simply more kind
This is subjective but MEBA is more laid back. The MEBA reps are always nice and been willing to answer my many questions for hours on end. MMP is totally different they won’t answer your questions and are incredibly rude or just plain ignorant. I have been threatened by an MMP dispatcher who got in my face and yelled at me to take a job for the whole 120 days and to not throw it back and screw him over on paperwork because it is a good job. He cussed me out but I wasn’t going to be threatened to take job especially when he wasn’t being transparent. MEBA dispatchers and reps aren’t going to pressure you into taking a job. They might offer you a free MEBA t-shirt or a sticker but certainly not cuss you out in front of people like MMP rep would.
- MEBA has overall better contracts
MEBA has had the highest increases in contract rates over the past couple of years compared to the other shipping unions. MEBA fights hard for its members. Unlike MMP which has undercut and underbid a lot over the past several years. MMP mates can get screwed on some really bad wages on several ships. Compare any top to bottom MMP contract with a top to bottom MEBA contract. The MEBA contracts are significantly higher. The contracts that MMP can’t “me too” from MEBA engineers are the worst.
- More opportunity and MEBA’s Growth
MMP has a bunch of A books sitting at 2nd mate on the best contracts clogging up advancement and the senior officers have the best contracts on lock. There are senior officer jobs available with MMP but you would have easier time getting a higher paying senior deck job in the MEBA. In the last year MEBA added 5 ships to the deck fleet. In 2025 the MEBA is going to grow by another 4 ships after the Pass-through ends (barely any MEBA Mates use it because it is simply not worth it and MEBA mates want all Express Vessels called in our halls). So there is plenty of opportunity if you were to leave ATC.
- Training is easier
Being able to take the Chief Mate upgrade courses wherever I wanted was great. I got reimbursed within a week or two. I liked the flexibility so I didn’t have to wait to for MITAGS to offer them and I could take them in Florida in the winter.
- You get a seat at the table
I had the opportunity to be involved in a contract negotiation as a junior officer. I have never heard of a MMP junior officer being involved in negotiations, in fact many of my friends at MMP were surprised by this.
- MEBA never gives up and fights hard
MEBA never gives up on its members. They just finished a long hard fight with NYC for a fair and significant increase for Staten Island Ferries deck and engine officers. They didn’t give up and they didn’t settle and MEBA did right by its members by securing back wages. Some MEBA guys are getting back pay amounts reaching close to a million dollars! You’ll read a lot about how long it took but you won’t read about how MMP gave up on its unlicensed members on the Staten Island Ferry so they won’t be receiving a big pay day. So if MMP is willing to give up on its unlicensed members on the Staten Island Ferry what makes you think they will not give up on you at ATC as a MMP officer?