Unionizing the Gulf

It seems a looming vaccination mandate combined with increasingly egregious HR / payroll mismanagement have stirred up a lot of chatter in the drilling industry about unionizing, particularly the drilling department.

In the past, it seemed like most of the people from the South were staunchly opposed to unionizing the Gulf – but they may have finally reached their breaking point. Rumors of potential strikes / sit-ins while on active drilling contracts.

What do you think this process would look like? An established union like MEBA assisting with organization and negotiations? An all new union forming? Maybe a private company like Prime Ocean transitioning into a sort of labor union?

The perfect storm of labor shortages and a potential mini-boom could allow them to leverage themselves into some protections. Posting to gauge general sentiment.

They tried to unionize a bunch of the OSV companies a while ago, didn’t go well. Many offices had “talks” with the mariners discouraging any thought of unionizing. Louisiana being a Right to Work state didn’t help.

I think the hardest part of unionizing would be the cyclical nature of drilling. Some companies double or triple thier operational fleets during the good times. So during downturns what happens to those without spots on rigs? Do they wait on a call or visit the hall forever? Do they maintain insurance and retirement benefits?

The deep sea fleets stay reasonably stable, so the union thing works for those owners and mariners.


I would say that as far as the vaccine mandate, the unions stance is in line with the current regime in Washington, so you will get no help from them here… but they may at least bargain for some type of compensation for cooperating members who take the jab voluntarily. In fact the Washington State Ferries have already had worker shortages/ stand downs because of the state requiring vaccines for all crew. Strange times we are living in…

1 Like

10 years in the oil patch and I heard plenty of complaining, but never would I dream of it being enough to turn the majority staunchly-conservative drillers against a bedrock platform plank like anti-unionism. (I came from the quasi-union world of MSC before O&G so I never understood the anti-union thing personally.)

While there are some protections for workers talking about unionizing, if anyone not currently unionized on a drillship tried to “sit-in” or “strike” they’d be on the next chopper and fired legally in the blink of an eye. There are no protections for not doing your job.

There might be a labor shortage, but I’d be willing to be oil contractors will raise their wages to hire people who won’t organize if they have to. If I’m wrong I’ll gladly eat my hat.


With wages going up, everyone hiring & rumors of hiring & retention bonuses I don’t think a massive union push would work in the GoM right now. I would think the best time for the unions to get a foot in the door would be during a falling oil patch cycle when the workers have more complaints & companies are alienating employees with cutbacks & layoffs. Laying a foundation, getting pro-union people into place for the eventual decline wouldn’t be a bad idea though?

1 Like

Uniionizing anywhere is a tough task. A poster on here hit it on the head of where future benefits will come from with the uncertain market of GOM. In negotiating, those companies contribute x amount of dollars to the pension and welfare plan. When they go belly up, union is left with non-payers.The other well established members will suffer going through payouts/benefits to non-working newer members who get layed off in cycles we are familiar with. IMHO. Stay away from most if not all those GOM companies, They are not a long time reliable source of income to support the benefits a well run union needs in its portfolio…


Your hat is safe. One of the companies in the GOM recently gave a quick raise.