May Day Message

May 4th 2020

Union Sisters and Brothers:

Today is May Day: a historic day for labor, celebrating the sacrifice and burden that working people around the world carry in our society. Nothing could be more apparent on this particular day than the reality that workers are on the front lines bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is equally clear that maritime workers – the members of Masters, Mates & Pilots – and the more than 1.6 million seafarers of all nationalities employed at sea are keeping the supply chains of the world open and life sustained. All mariners are working under extreme duress caused by the Coronavirus.

Members of Masters, Mates & Pilots, like other mariners around the globe, are most often restricted to their vessels, at risk for their health and deeply anxious about their families and loved ones back home.

As we speak, many MM&P members are isolated aboard their vessels and awaiting relief, in some cases for as long as five or more months. Members in New York harbor are exposed every day to risks delivering essential workers to their hospitals, fire stations, grocery stores and countless other essential workplaces while crewing the Staten Island Ferry and NY Water Taxi; MM&P ferry crews are doing the same in Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay and coastal Alaska. MM&P Pilots, Docking Masters, pilot vessel and tug boat crews are safely guiding the ships of the world in and out of our ports. MM&P barge crews, dredge crews and mariners of all types are keeping commerce moving in our harbors, up and down our rivers, along our coasts and across the Great Lakes and the oceans of the globe.

Merchant mariners are keeping our communities nourished, industry fueled and troops overseas provisioned. We are essential workers and we have carried the burden of sustaining our economic and military security since 1775 at the inception of our country.

It is appropriate to recall that Masters, Mates & Pilots was established in 1887 some eight months after the Haymarket “Riot” and the events in Chicago that led to the establishment of May 1 as International Workers’ Day. The ferment of that era — the “Gilded Age” — a time of gross inequality and monopolies resonates today. Once again, hundreds of thousands of workers are on their own: providing for their families in the absence of reasonable protections for their health and safety that are warranted and should be expected.

MM&P is insisting on crew reliefs, PPE, the availability of testing and all COVID-19 safe practices that are in line with local and federal requirements as well as industry-recognized best practices. MM&P is defending our legal rights and contractual terms and conditions of employment. Most of our employers are doing their best under the present circumstances. In some cases, grievances have been filed and are being pursued.

As we have asked from the outset of this pandemic, please keep us informed. We are here to support you. While the outcome of the current crisis is far from clear, our members are holding fast, as U.S. merchant mariners have in peace and war since 1775, and as MM&P members have since the smoke was barely cleared from Haymarket Square in Chicago some 134 years ago.

Wishing you all safety and good health at sea and ashore on this International Workers’ Day, 2020.

Don Marcus, President
International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots