News

MM&P State of the Union Report

January 14th 2016

As we enter the 129th year since our founding in January 1887, our union’s time-honored slogan, “Faith Is a Living Power,” could not be more germane.

Although a number of challenges cloud the horizon, our bearings remain true. We will steam ahead as we have through the generations since our founding.

It is worthwhile recalling that MM&P was born primarily as an inland organization. It was founded in reaction to the outrageous criminalization of Captain Charles H. Smith after a boiler explosion and the ensuing fire aboard the Long Island Steamer Seawanaka caused grievous loss of life. Over time, deep-sea mariners came to predominate in our union. Today, as the international trade U.S. flag merchant marine continues to decline in size, our Inland sector has taken on increased prominence: with the new Atlantic Maritime Group, based in New York Harbor, we are closer than ever to our roots.

While we have good cause to celebrate the resurgence of our Inland sector—East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes—we must brace for challenges in 2016. The greatest challenges continue to be those facing our Offshore Membership Group. For many years the organizational and financial engine of our union, Offshore Division mariners must deal with the virtual abandonment by key federal policy makers of our international trade industry.

Nevertheless, after great effort by our legislative staff in Washington, D.C., and thanks to a solid core of Congressional allies on both sides of the political aisle (and the work of many others), the long-desired $400,000 per ship “bump-up” in annual Maritime Security Program funding will occur for fiscal year 2016, and for fiscal year 2017 an additional $1.5 million per ship per year has been approved for MSP. This should be a major assist to our employers who are in the midst of an international shipping slump and who have seen U.S. government impelled cargoes reduced to a trickle.

The financial “bump-up,” as well as the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, should provide encouragement to Maritime Security Program ocean carriers that have been wavering. Throughout our industry, all recognize the tremendous efforts of our own Jim Patti, President of MIRAID, for the important role he has had in making this happen.

Improvements at the federal level regarding maritime policy objectives and legislation will only happen if there is unity of purpose and honest partnership between labor and industry.

In the immortal words of former San Francisco 49er (and Dallas Cowboy) great Deion Saunders “[i]t’s hard for me to fathom that I gotta be loyal to you if you’re not loyal to me.” Such is the sentiment every MM&P member must feel after being subject to the recent manipulation of the Maritime Security Program by American President Lines (APL) in an effort to avoid their collective bargaining obligations aboard the MV APL Cyprine.

Here we have what was once a great American ship owning company that has become little more than a Singapore-owned U.S. mailbox. The U.S. subsidiary, APL Limited, is operated by a handful of shills trying to finish out their careers as camp followers to their lords in Singapore as they leech off the political efforts of maritime labor in Washington, D.C.

In 2009, APL paid $26.3 million to resolve fraud claims for alleged inflated shipping costs to Iraq and Afghanistan. In October 2015, the company paid another $9.8 million to settle contractor fraud claims. And APL’s U.S. citizen hangers-on are no longer content merely to rip-off the U.S. taxpayer. We should not be shocked that the company is attempting to renege on its collective bargaining agreements with four loyal union partners who have supported it not only through all the economic ups and downs of the maritime industry but also through the Second World War and every conflict since.

Even considering the flaccid ethical standards of APL leadership, it is hard to stomach that while the company has had its lips firmly clasped around the financial nipple of Uncle Sam, sucking every conceivable dollar out of the U.S. government, it has been urging its U.S. labor partners to be loyal foot soldiers. At MARAD, the U. S. Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, in Congress, and, of course, relentlessly aboard ship, our members have been urged to do everything we possibly can to support APL’s efforts. Meanwhile they have been secretly planning to discard us.

Thank you, APL, for the reality check. Your absolute hypocrisy regarding application of the APL Code of Conduct will be duly noted by the ships’ officers responsible for operating your vessels. For the APL-NOL ownership in Singapore who are desperately trying to sell the company, perhaps the outlook would have been better had some measure of integrity been required of the company’s management. Be assured that on behalf of our members employed at APL, we will be using all the resources available to us to correct this travesty.

We believe that loyalty is a two-way street. Masters, Mates & Pilots does not hesitate to support our employers—others of which face similar financial challenges—when dealt with honestly and transparently.

What we preach, we practice, which is why, while we are engaged in battling difficult times in the deep-sea sector, we are gearing up with our Inland membership to plan for the future. The world is not going to get friendlier anytime soon for maritime labor—deep sea or inland. A dues ballot will shortly go out to our Pacific Maritime Region (PMR) members, asking them to pay a percentage dues rate similar to other Inland and Offshore members. The change to a progressive, percentage dues system is necessary if we are to continue to provide our PMR members in the future with the same range of services they enjoy today.

While fleet reductions in the Alaska Marine Highway System are for the most part being absorbed, the Crowley contract with the Alyeska Pipeline in Valdez remains undecided. We are looking to receive positive news in the near future. In the meantime, we are pleased to report the ratification of our Shaver Transportation contract on the Columbia, which successfully caps off at least three years of high drama on the river. Thanks to the perseverance of our Inland membership and leadership, we are back on track with this very important employer.

Similarly, the amalgamation of our Atlantic Maritime Group (AMG) is continuing. A referendum for Convention delegates for the AMG was recently conducted. We salute those who were elected and the many AMG members who threw their hats into the ring. Meanwhile, two organizing drives are underway in New York Harbor and more AMG employers are signing on to our health and training plans.

While we do not expect 2016 to be an easy year, our compass is true and we will remain seaworthy and on course. Thank you to all of our members and staff for your hard work and loyalty to MM&P throughout the year.

Fraternally,

Don Marcus
MM&P President