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NY Mariners Vote on Joining New Union

Uniting with the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots will bring added clout, resources and training to local mariners and open the door to opportunities beyond the East Coast

By MarEx 2014-09-18 16:12:00

Ballots are arriving in the mail this week at the homes of 1,300 area mariners for an election to decide whether local watermen will join a large national union of deck officers who serve on ocean-going ships, and which also represents captains and crews on inland waterways beyond New York Harbor. Ballots will be tabulated and results announced in mid-November.

Ron Tucker, Secretary Treasurer of Local 333, the group that currently represents the men and women who work on most of New York Harbor’s unionized tugs and tourist boats said, “This is a win-win both for folks in maritime here in the New York and New Jersey area and for the Masters, Mates & Pilots. Through this merger we will gain strength, we will gain access to legal, lobbying and financial support, to a state-of-the-art training facility and yet we will still maintain local control.”

The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots represents deck officers who serve on U.S.-flagged ships that sail across the globe delivering goods, including military cargo and American food aid.

The union also represents workers at ferry services similar to the Staten Island Ferry in Washington State and Alaska as well as on boats involved in the tourist trade, tugboats, dredges and other vessels that work in inland waters. Harbor pilots in ports across the nation, including those who guide large ships through New York Harbor, are also members of the national union.

“While we represent many ship’s officers and harbor pilots who live in the greater metropolitan New York area and who navigate large commercial vessels in and out of the Port of New York and New Jersey every day, we haven’t had much of a presence aboard smaller vessels working the harbor and the coastal waters of the Northeast for many years,” said Captain Don Marcus, who serves as President of the Masters Mates & Pilots. 

The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, one of the country’s oldest unions, was founded in New York in 1880 by pilots and sea captains outraged over the treatment of  Captain Charles P. Smith. The captain, who heroically saved his passengers and crew after a boiler exploded on his paddle-wheel steamer, the Seawanhaka, in the New York’s East River, was made a scapegoat by local politicians. Smith eventually was cleared of any wrongdoing and today, 134 years later, the Masters, Mates & Pilots represents 4,600 captains, deck officers, pilots and other maritime professionals who serve on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Local 333 was founded in 1935 to represent maritime workers in the New York area and elsewhere in the Northeast. The local union has been suffering from financial problems in recent years resulting from a costly, failed strike in 1988 that led to a reduction in wages for most of its members.  The union has struggled to fully support the needs of its members, employed in both the public and private sector on tugs, dredges, tourist boats and on the Staten Island Ferry.

Affiliation with the Masters, Mates & Pilots will give local mariners access to the union’s resources, including its credit union, legal services, lobbying support and state-of-the-art training facility in Linthicum, Maryland. Local mariners also will be eligible for job openings on inland waters in other regions of the country.