It’s not just the maritime unions

[BREAKING: Ex-UAW President Charged With Conspiring To Steal Union Dues]

Federal prosecutors in Michigan charged former United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams with conspiring to embezzle union funds on Thursday, making him the 15th person to be charged in connection with the government’s sprawling investigation into corruption and bribery at UAW.

UAW has nothing to do with Maritime unions. I am without doubt AMO has broom sweeped the prior directors and is a much better organization than one may give credit. Mr Paul Doell had a heavy hand in cleaning up the outfit.

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They have come a long way since those days, from what I hear… though they could still stand to do a better job of fighting for good wages for their members.


Over many years, the UAW has done a much better job of boosting wages and benefits for Autoworkers, than the Maritime unions have done for Mariners.

Interesting you say that. I talked not long ago to an instructor at MMP’s school who said officers in this industry across the board used to experience wages and a standard of living equal to lawyers and doctors until about 1977-1980. He said all the maritime unions have failed us in boosting wages and keeping us as well off as those who came before us.

And he wasn’t the only one to point that out. Even a Master on an MLL vessel reminded us that the guys yanking boxes off our vessel make $250,000 a year (Crane operators.) More than him and all the men and women who risk everything bringing the boxes across an entire ocean.


As far as I know, there is only one Autoworkers Union, and only one longshore union on each coast (not counting the IBU dockworkers who (as far as I know) only do barges in Seattle and a fuel dock and in Dutch.).

The longshoremen and Autoworkers don’t have a bunch of competing unions underbidding each other with cheaper wages in a race to the bottom.

A valid point Tugsailor… My brother in law is/was in UAW. Things were rather rosy before the large Ford truck plant shut down in Virginia. He retired rather than move to Michigan, which eventually continued the layoffs. My son’s father in law took a retirement package as well. As did his father. Union is only good if you still have work. Nuts that UAW and ILA have no competitors, unlike the Maritime unions, but as they unfortunately bid against each other, there is still work and rather valuable benefits. Perhaps the pay may or may not meet some expectations, ain’t a bad gig overall. The fact that those three men I mentioned still get a retirement check every month and health benefits is a good thing. I and my bride enjoy a similar package from AMO.

Lot of factors at play. For one the auto industry and the unions used to use Industry-level bargaining, when Ford agreed to a contract the rest of the big three would fall in line.

Also called Sectoral collective bargaining

Now it’s mostly done at company level, called Enterprise-level. This allows individual companies to pit one union against another.

The maritime unions used to have informal agreements that resulted in Sectoral bargaining. That fell apart at the beginning of the '80s.

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I like many other masters had my name down to be a container crane driver in Long Beach. Wishful thinking.


Working on tugs was a good living 30 years ago, but it’s value has been reduced by at last 50% by inflation.and stagnant wages.

No, I really don’t care what the government says the inflation rates is. I compare the cost of houses and vehicles. House prices have quadrupled in 30 years. The cost of a pickup has at least tripled.

Wages today are about 2 to 2.5 times higher than 30 years ago.

Thirty years ago I had a big income compared to my peers onshore, and what things cost in the local economy. Today, my income is not much bigger than many shoreside jobs. A lot of small businesses (1-3 people) produce a much bigger income than going to sea.


In 1970 a Wiper at Mobil Oil was making $1,000 a month… a brand new top of the line Ford Mustang was $2,800… I hear all the stories about how far the money took them. Always wondered at that rate how much the Masters and CE’s made that year.

The MITAGS facility was built to handle the sailors of the 400 or so bluewater ships under the American flag at the time. Now they have about 80-90.

It seems to be a highly effective way to move the wealth back uphill.

We used to be like the Greece of 500 BC., They were the center of the Western universe and now we are catching up with them.

What makes the Longshore unions as successful at winning ‘whatever they want’ is their exclusivity in their specific job market sector. The ILWU and ILA have a death grip on their respective coasts. There is no plausible process in the future, that I can see, where that arrangement will change. However, I believe their last militant effort and strike threatening out here on the west coast brought everyone to the red line of seeing just how far they can go. The non-maritime public has NO LOVE for the dockworkers unions. Sadly, the public throw mariners under the same bus. I do my best to educate anyone who listens that, “We are NOT the same.”

But while the west coast gang is still firmly set in their ways, I think the very loud and very public media driven effort by the PMA cultivated a lot of scrutiny (all of it negative) of the union. Again, with little (none?) public support, it was very challenging to support what the unions wanted. Public sympathy was for the shipping companies. It doesn’t matter where you stood on any issue on the table, it was made to be all about money and how greedy the unions were. I’m NOT taking sides. I’m just describing how it was at least from everything I read and saw first hand.
Since that last go round, I believe the ILWU has taken a different tack on negotiations. I believe they have wisely opted for a more low profile, “how do we get to an understanding and agreement early” in recent talks. Things have been relatively quiet the last few years and that’s a good thing for everyone.

Maritime unions in the USA that ‘compete’ for contracts with various shipowners are their own worst enemy. As a Pilot, I work aboard two distinctly different groups of US Flag ships that each employ MM&P and AMO. I see and hear about it all the time, from both sides. I totally get it.

Until a path to unification can be discovered and followed, it’s the law of supply and demand and competitive pricing. That doesn’t serve the rank and file in the long run. For those who “want more” (yes, that’s you in the AMO), you need to demand more not from your employer (the shipowner). You need to get the Union negotiators to push harder. I say that as a guy that sailed as an AMO officer the entire time I was deep sea. Not once did anyone ever ask me…or anyone else I worked with … what was a satisfactory pay scale. I was always TOLD what the wages would be, never asked what we’d like. I sailed with one company exclusievly, with as many as 9 ships, all of them had different contracts. This was back in the 90’s. Maybe it’s different now.

I’m not bad mouthing AMO or any union. They did good by me with all the training and education and license prep I got at Dania. For free. I was happy and have no complaints.

But years later, as a MM&P member in the Pilot group that speaks to offshore officers all the time, I see the bigger picture. As long as AMO attempts to underbid MM&P/MEBA offers in an effort to secure more jobs, the situation will never improve for rank and file. Ironically, if thats okay with everybody, so be it. MM&P hold the “standards” bar very high. AMO accepts a lower standard, again, to chase the number of jobs. But at lower pay.

Will there ever be a time to serve all US seafarers to benefit from a meeting of the minds and come together as one deck union and one engineering union? I doubt it. Not in my lifetime. That will require a huge paradigm shift for everyone. I’m not holding my breath.


Some interesting developments regarding ILA coming up in a few ports other than LA.