Megacorp Union

I think that initially you’d have to keep each union’s seniority system fairly intact. You can ship with the others, but you’re behind everyone who already has the time. Long term you could figure out ways to combine them, but that has to be a gradual process.

Says who? If a company goes bankrupt they don’t have to keep supplying labor to clients under existing agreements. I’m not a labor lawyer but seems to me that if the unions all closed down them reopened under a new umbrella contracts could be renegotiated immediately.


(I’m not saying seniority “should” be whipped out… I just want to hear your reasons for keeping it. Who would it benefit? Why should they be protected? Doesn’t the US liscense structure have seniority baked in?)

Why not offer an immediate payout of each plan’s current assets (with IRA type rollover optikns to avoid taxes) to existing members based on number of years they have vested?

1 Like

I’m not a bankruptcy lawyer or a labor lawyer, so I don’t know.

In bankruptcy, a company is seeking protection from creditors because it is “insolvent.” ‘Insolvent” generally means that a company is ubable, or is about to become unable, to pay its creditors in the ordinary course of business.

A bankrupt company’s contract is just a competing claim in a large pool with other creditors. Some classes of creditors have priority over others. Existing contracts are legally enforceable and must be honored, however, bankruptcy judges do have authority to modify contracts and other debts in a bankruptcy case. The rational is fairness and protection of other creditors according to their priorities.

We have often seen Airlines file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and use it to modify or “cram down” its debts, including obligations under labor contracts while remaining in business. Shipping companies have probably done the same thing.

Can a union file for bankruptcy? I do not know if an “insolvent” union can file for bankruptcy, but I assume it can. If so, I have no doubt that there are special rules for a union bankruptcy. Can a union operate in Chapter 11 bankruptcy or something like it? I don’t know.

In order for a union to file for bankruptcy (if it can), it would need to be “insolvent.” What does “insolvent” mean in the context of a collective bargaining agreement to crew ships. I have no idea,

One thing I am sure of, if a group of solvent well established unions with existing collective bargaining agreement merge to form a new super union, then it sure as hell had better be solvent !

I don’t see how a union could claim to be insolvent and use bankruptcy law to attempt to modify low wage contracts to increase member wages. That makes no sense at all.

I guess that’s the key right there. People who plan to retire within 5-10 years are a pretty substantial voting block in every union that I know of. Not to mention that those senior people are more likely to be in leadership positions. I do disagree on the idea that there’s no way for everyone to win though.

It seems to me like the main thing that we all want is an end to labor organizations undercutting each other to get work. That competition only helps the employers. We don’t necessarily need to jump into a full-blown merger to do that. All we need is a truce.

Start with a public commitment by each union that they won’t take work with any company (or division thereof) that is currently represented by another union. I’m not sure on the legal ramifications, but if it’s allowed, get a written agreement with penalties in place for violating those commitments. If all that works out, move towards establishing joint negotiating teams or minimum industry contract standards. Let any merger happen over time in as natural of a way as possible, and we should retain most of the upside with substantially less disruption to people’s existing livelihoods.

I think existing seniority has to initially be protected because otherwise there’s no way in hell that the unions with the better contracts will vote for a merger.

Don’t forget the unions where the retirees have voting rights. A whole lot more retirees in MM&P than active members with a whole lot more sore feelings about the transgressions of the past (I.e. tanker takeaway in the 80’s).


While it might not be “simple”, I think there are well understood principals for dealing with vested pension plans when companies merge. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Just do it the same way it’s usually done. This is one of the easiest problems to solve in combining unions.

1 Like

There would certainly be a few lifetime second mates pissed off but… aren’t the top officer jobs with most unions selected by the company anyway? Why would they trade their officers for another unions anyway?

Seniority would be one of the most difficult problems in combining several unions into one. I bet that labor unions have merged in the past, and that there are know ways of dealing with seniority. Still this won’t be easy.

I don’t think it would be possible to just run several different union seniority systems in parallel for several years under existing contracts while working on the seniority issue. No one is going to vote to merge until they understand how it affects their seniority. But there is a way to come up with a fair system.

You guys are all forgettjng one MAJOR point… the OP (me) didn’t ask for a liat of problems or even if it was possible… he asked what it would look like if there weren’t any problems.

It would look similar to the longshoremen. Especially, the FAT paychecks!

Don’t forget this is America, not Japan… here youth and power are worshipped and nobody cares what the old has been people have to say :wink:


What does that have to do with the issue of seniority?

I’d estimate around 80-90% of the senior officers I know have gone back to shipping off the board at least once in their career. If you take away that seniority, they become entirely reliant on the company. No quitting for ethical issues, no leaving to try something different, none of the security that the union system otherwise provides. Getting a permanent job shouldn’t split you off from the union, and the seniority system helps keep it that way.

I think everyone is pretty much in agreement on that. It’d look great. Negotiations would be easier, wages go up, and we could all focus on expanding the industry instead of staying alive. To me, the questions of how it could feasibly happen are more interesting. The more I think about it, the less likely any full-scale merger seems with where we are now. I agree with tugsailor that I wouldn’t vote for it without knowing how seniority was going to shake out. But I would vote for an agreement between the unions to get out of the current cycle of inter-union competition. Especially with penalties for non-compliance. That’s a low enough risk/high enough reward proposition to take it out of pie in the sky territory.


I obvioisly don’t know what I’m talking about… and I don’t understand the system… nor have I ever made any attempt to put my head around it. In my world the guy best fit for the job gets it regardless how long he’s been with the company. And if a crew is working great together on a ship premerger why would they be broken up because a guy in a legacy union had more senority points?

1 Like

They wouldn’t? No one is saying people with permanent jobs wouldn’t keep their permanent jobs. That has nothing to do with seniority.

Seniority would be important when a company reduces its fleet or goes out of business. Thus eliminating “permanent” jobs.

Ok, so explain this seniority thing to me. What is the benefit? And what happens to me specifically? And by specifically I mean me as a liscensed master with lots to offer who left the unions years ago specifically because of these problems. Do I get to join this new club?

Why? If all the contracts are the same (or, wt least universally higher than they are today), why not just go wait for a new job to pop up on the board for the same benefits and $?

If I am making $150k on the best contract today.

And tomorrow I make $300k on the best contract.

Then my company goes under and I have to take the worst contract in the union for $200k

… aren’t I still $50k ahead of the game?? (provided the benefits are equal)