What's wrong with joining a union?

I’m tryin to figure out the best/easiest way for someone like me (ex-Navy, no civilian experience, AB unlimited) to get a job [U]and[/U] get all my STCW classes paid for. When I talk to either SIU or MMP (unlicensed division) they make it seem so easy. Pay some dues, show up at a union hall, go to sea and when you return we’ll send you to school. Heck they even give you room, board and travel. It seems so easy.

The alternative seems to be to go to sea with a company that pays for training. Finding a job doesn’t seem so easy, from the posts I read.

Anyway, the salary survey says that [B]only 3% of you guys are in a union.[/B] I respect the talent/experience on this forum so I figure there has to be something significantly wrong with being in a union. What’s up?


It isn’t easy anywhere at the moment. A couple of years ago, even 12 months ago, if you had a pulse you could get a job. Now, union or non-union, there are lots of us (myself included) sitting on the beach riding this one out and waiting for the next Katrina.

There is nothing “wrong” with joining a union, if it serves your needs. I think the small percentage you cited is due to the fact that many gCaptain users work in the oil patch, and there is very little union presence in the GOM. In the south, union members are also known as “socialists” and “communists” and “hooligans” and “Democrats”. That’s what the trade groups (unions) formed by the company owners would like you (and congress) to think.


Bottom line is, if you need to join a union to get a job, by all means, join the union. There are indeed some benefits to collective bargaining, and in the best cases both management and labor co-exist harmoniously, and when the shit hits the fan there are processes in place to protect both sides.

I’ve experienced both union and non-union jobs in my career. I like both systems for different reasons. One of the things I liked about being in the GOM was if I got a complete idiot on my boat, I could run him off. Done, end of story. But, there are two sides to that too. Find yourself with a Captain who just doesn’t like you, and you could be gone tomorrow for no reason other than that. Unions provide a little bit more job security.

I don’t work in the GOM but have been union and non union I am not sure how you would go sail then go to BSTW that is required before sailing except rivers and great lakes

I found the SIU school in Piney point to be great and you might get them to send you to school before you sail after you pay the upfront fees they use to be around 350 for phy and drug but talk to the patrol men in your area

I to say use the unions for what you can but siu retirement sucks and I have found better pay non union right know jobs are hard we use to be able to be picky but it sounds like that slow boat to china would have a stack of resumes’ well good luck

The best advice I can give anyone looking for a job call and call every week and if they say stop ill call you call after hours and leave a message but call mondays after noon are the best

Nothing’s wrong with unions. Nothing’s wrong with non-union. I’ve sailed both.

Benefits of union membership:

  1. Free school. I joined the AMO when I had my time for my 3rd Mate’s license. They paid for everything. And that was before all the new assessment classes.
  2. Benefits are great. And you keep them when you transfer between companies, because they are provided by the union, paid for by the companies.
  3. Pension and 401k.
  4. Varied job opportunities.
  5. A couple years ago, we were bitching because the non-union guys had better wages. But, our wages don’t get cut, because we have a contract. The price of oil has no bearing on our pay. However, we all go home the same way when vessels lay-up.

Either way, it’s not all rainbows. Most unlimited jobs are union. But limited tonnage offers more job opportunities and faster advancement. There’s no right answer. With the mobility permitted in our industry, it’s possible to try them both, and see what works for you.

The SIU pension ain’t all bad. It depends on which division and contract you’re on. The deep sea pension has a maximum cap. The inland division (sea-going tugs, harbor tugs, ATBs, dredges) pensions are wage related. Depending on the contract, some get 2 for 1 contributions. You can draw it at 55 with enough qualifying days.

I completely agree with the above posts. I worked both union and non union. From my experience non union companies tend to have better benefits but pay less. The biggest advantage, for me, being with the union is u can have more flexible schedule ie you can stay ashore as long as you want to and still keep your benefits ( 125 work days minimum in a year) but on the other hand most union jobs tend to have longer hitches (60-120 days) . Also if you get laid off or fired from a union job you can just go to the hall a get another job, if available, while if it happens on non union job u have to start the hole proses all over again (job interview, resume and so on). If you live close to a union hall you have a big advantage if not it’s pain in the ***. I think as an AB unlimited you will never have a problem finding a job with SIU. It might be not the best paying one but better than nothing specially these days. I hope this post helps you with your dessicion. good luck.

[QUOTE=electro;14158] If you live close to a union hall you have a big advantage if not it’s pain in the ***.[/QUOTE]

When I sailed union you had 2 options, join MM&P which required you to show up at a hall every day or AMO where you pretty much had to find your own gig. Has this changed in the past five years?

My take is that MM&P is really limiting the number of exceptional mariners (the ones that live far from a hall) in their ranks by not creating some sort of electronic union hall. Not to mention the time and money spent by all their members traveling to the hall each day.

Yeah driving to beautiful Wilmington, CA everyday day after day does not sound like fun. It also sounds like what I’ll probably end up doing.

My goal is to move out of the LA area. I can see the hotel bills adding up waiting for a job. Maybe I’ll buy an RV, lol.

In the end, if MMP will send me to MITAG to get my 3/M classes then it’ll be worth it. We’ll see if I’m still sayin that when I’m on the 405 in traffic headed to the hall for the 30th day in a row…lol. :confused:

AMO is really pushing to end job searching on your own. All jobs are supposed to come out of dispatch now. Of course, once you are in with a company, they have the option of calling you back. Maersk was famous for taking recent academy grads, thereby bypassing dispatch. Now applicants are not supposed to ship before members. I know all crewing managers were informed of the new policy last year. Whether that’s consistently happening, I can’t say. But I have seen the top ranks get bent out of shape for bypassing dispatch.

There is nothing wrong with joining a union. Whatever puts the cookies on the kitchen table. I have no experience with unions. In my situation, I’ve had no reason. I got hired on with a company 13 years ago, and haven’t even thought about standing, waiting, or wondering about a job in any hall. I just go to work when I need to, or don’t if I have something to do.

The reason the union appeals to me is a big part of my motivation for a major career change (going back to sea) at 47 years old. I’m tired of the process electro mentions in a previous post on this thread; resume, calling, interview, job, then start all over again. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing and I need a change. So if I can get my first job without a resume, thats for me.

Understood, Navy. Since joining the Union in '01, I haven’t updated my resume in 8 years. I keep saying I’m gonna get around to it, but…

My understanding is that you have AB unlimited but you don’t have the STCW. Right? If that’s the case you can try to talk to the union headquarters (301 899 0675) explain your situation and ask them if you can just do your STCW classes and skip the rest. They will probably refuse ( they get money for every day you spend there) but give it a try anyway.
There’s another way to skip school. It’s kind of unethical though. You can get a job with a non union company and have them send you to one of their schools to get all your Basic Safety Training ( I don’t know if they still do that, they did it for me in 1999) then once you got all your STCW join the union and you’re good to go. Also keep in mind that if you go that route you’ll only have C seniority, not a big deal though with an AB unlimited ticket. I have a friend who is 45 years old and he’s in school right now and he hates it. It’s a very long and tedious proses ( takes about 7 month) for something that you can get done in a week. The only advantage I see in going to a union school is that you get a B seniority but like I said earlier C book is not a big deal with your qualifications. If you’re ready to spend the money you can go and get STCW on your own. Houston marine is pretty good. I think it takes about a week.

[quote=Navy SWO;14209]Yeah driving to beautiful Wilmington, CA everyday day after day does not sound like fun. It also sounds like what I’ll probably end up doing.

My goal is to move out of the LA area. I can see the hotel bills adding up waiting for a job. Maybe I’ll buy an RV, lol.

In the end, if MMP will send me to MITAG to get my 3/M classes then it’ll be worth it. We’ll see if I’m still sayin that when I’m on the 405 in traffic headed to the hall for the 30th day in a row…lol. :confused:[/quote]

I don’t think it is possible to become an applicant with MM&P until you’re licensed.

I think they have an unlicensed division. never heard of ship with their unlicensed contract though. maybe on tugs?

It’s not all sitting in a hall waiting on a job. You can work into a permanant job with regular rotation if you choose. Most tug, dredge and ATB jobs are permanant with.

The main complaint I’ve heard from the inland guys was that with a 28/28 rotation, it was hard to get into classes to upgrade without losing too much time. Some companies are paying rotation wages while upgrading at Piney Point. Not a bad deal.

That’s true. I stayed permanent for 5 years on a RO-RO. Deep sea rotation for permanents is 120 and 60 or 90 and 45. Kind of hard on a family life. had to quit.
Like i said earlier if you live close to a union hall and you’re not picky, getting a job even these days is not that hard. The longest I looked for a job was less than 3 weeks and I wasn’t at the hall every day. normally I get a job within the first week (I live about 10 miles from the hall). It also depends on what your rating is. It looks like steward dep. jobs are the hardest to get.

I got tired of the long and erratic hitches the first 15 years I sailed. I joined the SIU mid 80s on tugs. With the overtime I was making, it was close to what I was making as a 2nd asst but working equal time. The wage related pension looks good too. My first check should be in this week.

My wife and I have been married 21 years at 28/28. She’s come to the reality that she has to put up with me full time now!

I was surprised to find out they do have an unlicensed division. I spoke with Sue in New Orleans. A real friendly lady. She claims to run it. :slight_smile:

Huh. Never heard of it, but I haven’t heard of a lot of stuff yet. :slight_smile: