New York Harbor Mariners Approve Merger With MMP Union Within ILA

November 17th 2014

Nov. 13 — Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association local representing tugboat captains and crews, Staten Island Ferry workers and other New York Harbor mariners have voted overwhelmingly to merge with the larger International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) within the ILA.

ILA Local 333, United Marine Division, and the MMP announced Nov. 13 that the New York harbor workers had approved the affiliation by more than a 2-1 ratio, 423-182, in a mail ballot. Local 333 represents 1,300 watermen who operate tugboats, dredges, tourist boats and ferries.

The MMP, a 4,600-member national union based in Linthicum Heights, Md., represents deck officers on U.S.-flag ocean-going ships, as well as captains and crews on vessels working in inland waterways and harbor pilots in New York and other U.S. ports.

Local 333 was founded in 1935 to represent maritime workers in the New York City area and elsewhere in the Northeast, the unions said. It has suffered financially and contracted from 2,800 members since a costly 1988 strike that ended in concessions and lost union jobs.

Affiliation with the MMP will give New York harbor mariners access to the larger union’s resources—including its credit union, legal services, financial and lobbying support and training facility—but the members will “still maintain local control,” Local 333 Secretary-Treasurer Ron Tucker said in a statement.

The Local 333 mariners also will be eligible for job openings on inland waters in other regions, the unions said.

“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,” MMP President Don Marcus said in a statement on the approval vote.

“Now that the ballots have been cast, we can join forces to build better working conditions for mariners in New York Harbor and all along the Atlantic Seaboard.”

One of Oldest U.S. Unions
The MMP, one of the oldest unions in the U.S., is the marine affiliate of the ILA. It was founded in New York in 1887, the union said on its website, by harbor pilots and sea captains who had first come together to protest the treatment of one Captain Charles P. Smith for his role in an 1880 boiler explosion on the paddle-wheel steamer, the Seawanhaka, which he commanded on the East River.
Scapegoated by local politicians despite his heroic conduct, the union said, Smith eventually was cleared of any wrongdoing.

A parallel vote by MMP members on proposed constitutional changes related to the merger is due to be completed in December, according to information on the officers’ union website. If the plan is approved, Local 333 will become the new Atlantic Maritime Group, an independent division within the MMP United Inland Group.