Companies like Maersk and Transocean know that the way to suceed in today’s maritime world is consolodation.
Hypothetically… what would the merchant marine look like tomorrow if all the US maritime unions (officer and unliscensed) followed Maersk’s lead and consolidated under one mega-union?
That is essential unless the unions want to continue their present path as competing job services offering ever lower wages to a smaller and smaller number of mariners.
One consolidated Seafarers Guild with licensed and unlicensed separate voting divisions, but with free and open crossovers up and down, is exactly what is need.
How do you get that to actually happen? Would the unions ever go for it?
No. Most are living in the past.
To start with, all the union memberships have to push for mergers
All the scumbag union officials will have have their jobs protected and be given raises,better perks, benefits, and big bonuses for accomplishing the mergers.
The five union schools would have to be kept in operation for the foreseeable future.
The union halls need to be closed in favor of one national internet “eHall.” All the port agents and patrolmen will need their jobs protected and receive big raises.
Union dues will need to increase initially to support all these union scumbags at higher wages. As they retire or their jobs are bought out with early retirement packages, their jobs can be consolidated to a reasonable number. Eventually, total administrative costs will decrease to much less than they are today.
Initially there will be too many union members. Some maybe lifted up while others are dragged down. This may require generous early retirement packages and adjustments until equilibrium in membership is reached.
Union contracts will need to be renegotiated over time on standardized terms.
Yep… a cross union strike might do the trick. It would certainly get media attention which is the only thing congress cares about today.
Imagine that! You wouldn’t even have to picket the ships… just picket Dania and the Union halls. We might even talk @c.captain into manning the megaphone
I think a more productive and easier approach would be a membership online petition to the union leaders of each union. As long as the union leaders get to keep their jobs and get a raise, or a fat early retirement package, they would go for it. Basically, the membership would have to “greenmail” the union leadership.
I don’t see any role for Congress in union mergers.
Won’t see any merging until you can separate pension plans. Nobody wants another union to rob the joining pension
Separate plans for existing members and a new plan for post merger applicants. I don’t see why it should be that complicated to do.
And set up a mechanism where by existing members can voluntarily convert their existing plans to the new plans That would require some sort of buy-in by any member because the new pension plan will be better than any of the existing plans.
I don’t care what objections anyone can come up with, they can all be dealt with in a fair, reasonable, and even generous way.
Every sailor knows that all sailors, whether union or not, would be a lot better off with one strong Seafarer’s Guild. All the union officials know it too. The advantages of the concept are obvious and it sells itself.
The only things blocking a merger of the maritime unions are the power hungry and money grubbing union officials. As long as the union officials all get a much better deal too, they would support a merger of unions.
A strong majority of union members just need to make up their collective minds to invest in higher dues for awhile to “greenmail” the union officials to allow the merger.
I think in the end even officials would benefit. Wages would go up and so would officials pay. However it would be which official in in office after a merger that would be an issue. There is still a lot of bad blood between MEBA and AMO that has to be dealt with as well
No sensible group of seafarers can continue to allow past hard feelings and grudges to drive wages lower and compromise their future.
Enough money heals all wounds, or at least makes you stop noticing the pain.
Whatever the highest paid senior union leaders who will continue working get paid now (isn’t it $200k to $300k) give them a $100,000 raise.
Whatever the union leaders who will give up their positions of power are making now, give them a $200,000 raise, and allow (or require) them to retire sooner with more money.
Another approach would be to pay off all the current senior union leadership bastards, and force them all into a very comfortable and immediate early retirement.
Then hire a former Secretary of Labor and a team of top labor lawyers to run the new Seafarer’s Guild with a clean slate.
As someone from the age where anything and everything can be done on the internet, couldn’t disagree more. Hiring halls might be a hassle, but I think they’re vital for a healthy union. Shooting the shit in hiring halls gave me more insight into what I was getting into than any amount of internet research could have.
Also, whenever I’ve run into an issue where I needed backup from the union, it was great to be on the phone with someone I know and see regularly, vs a random person at a national call center or website.
I Totally agree except real estate within a easy drive of most union halls is prohibitively expensive… and shooting the shit starts loosing value after a week or teo sitting in the hall.
That’s an excellent point.
I could see having some jobs on a national “eHall” board, and some jobs on traditional local boards.
Since there are now probably a dozen different maritime unions that probably have over 100 union halls, and several hundred union employees, it’s going to take years to digest and consolidate those union halls.
I don’t like the idea of spending half my life on a boat, and the other half hanging around a dreary rundown union hall in a bad neighborhood where I have to pay big city prices for a shitty hotel room, parking, and so on.
What features should a union hall have?
Here is my off the top of my head wish list. Locate new consolidated union halls in a very nice union owned full service hotel and commercial building open to the public in a good downtown/waterfront area with a view of shipping activities. It should be an iconic landmark high quality building that promotes union pride and professionalism to the public. There should be classrooms for training onsite. If a guy has to hang around a union hall, he should be able to knock out STCW and other courses while he’s there. A good onsite clinic for drug tests, physicals, vaccinations, and basic walk-in treatment open to seafarer’s and the public. Seafarers would receive deep discounts on rooms, meals, parking, etc.
The Seaman’s Guild iconic landmark building would be very well known and appreciated in the city. Inside and out, it would celebrate America’s maritime heritage and the professionalism of its members. It would convey to the public a firm positive impression of Seafarer’s contributions to society and the economy. Everyone that visits the building to go to a commercial tenant, eat in a good restaurant, or stay in the hotel, would immediately understand why Seafarer’s Guild members are worth every penny of our new high salaries.
Agreed on both points. They’re not a perfect system by any means, but I’d rather have their flaws and inconvenience over the opacity in both dispatching and union operations that seem to accompany current alternatives. Could a better system be designed? Absolutely. But if we’re talking about any sort of practical merger, it seems like sticking with a functional one that the majority of union members are familiar and comfortable with is a key.
I’d think a single consolidated union would have a good chance of raising wages long term, but in the first few years increased competition for the higher wage jobs is a definite problem. Shit, beyond even the AMO/MEBA differential, I can’t see many MFOW Reefers or Electricians being happy to have an AMO third jump over and try to take their jobs for the wage bump.
There is absolutely no way a merger would be able to please everyone equally in the first few years… there WILL be winners and loosers in the SHORT TERM beacuse life just isn’t a fair game. Any attempt to make a merger fair and equal would require an ungodly number of provisions and the “help” of a large team of lawyers.
That said you can make sure nobody is too far on the winning or loosing side in the short term and everyone would be up in the winner bracket in 5-10 years (except possibly those who leave shipping before then).
All existing labor contracts would have to be honored until they end. So there would be no immediate increase or decrease in wages and benefits.
The best contracts (MMP/MEBA?) would become the benchmark for all new labor negotiations. The Guild I envision would have a near monopoly on deepsea labor, and a significant and growing number of the pilots and tugboats. While the Guild would not be as powerful as the Longshormen, it would be a close second. It would never have to accept pay cuts. Period.
As AMO contracts expire, on new contracts, the Guild wages and benefits would increase to MMP/MEBA levels. With one unified union, a shipping company’s only other choice would be to attempt go non-union. If that were cheap and easy, the companies would have already done it. If it were easy to break a union with a near monopoly, the longshoremen would be in a hundred pieces.
The more difficult issues would be fairness and mobility among members. How do officers sail unlicensed if they need to when shipping is slow? With what seniority or priority. How do unlicensed guys get licensed and move up? With what seniority and priority? Can the guys waiting in the Hall work on tugs while they wait for a deepsea ship. Can the guys on the tugs sail deepsea? Those are all things that need to be worked out fairly for everyone in order to have a healthy growing union. No easy answers.