Union shipping hall vs non union work

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by KP2013dramamama, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. KP2013dramamama

    KP2013dramamama Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    3
    Can anyone explain to me the differences between working union and non union jobs and the pros and cons of each? Can you take both union and non union jobs? Or do you have to go one way or the other? Is it hard to go union if you've been non union? and hard to go non union if you've been non union?:thumb:
     
  2. cmakin

    cmakin Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2010
    Messages:
    688
    Likes Received:
    74
    Good question. I have worked both. I have also worked for more than one union. Heck, I even scabbed a strike by one union by working under another union contract. While there are still some that will have an entire career with one of the major officer's unions (MEBA D1 for engineers and MMP for mates), I do believe that may be the exception.

    In my opinion, for someone who knows that they want to go to sea and stay at sea for thier entire career, it is a good choice. I don't know how things are in the halls these days trying to get a berth, but I know when I got out of school, it was a tough row to hoe because I did it. In the first year after graduation, I got one ocean going job as third engineer out of the MEBA D1 hall in San Francisco. It was originally supposed to be for a couple of weeks, but I managed to stay onboard for three months. After that, I got nothing. A few night jobs here and there, but nothing ocean going. I ended up taking a job with Crowley in Lake Charles. That, too, was a union job, but with the SIU.


    I guess I should explain how some of the unions work. The MMP and MEBA D1 have job calls at their halls. You come in in the morning and give your shipping card to the dispatcher. As jobs come in, they get posted on a board. At job call (we had two at the SF hall back then, at 10 and 2), the dispatcher organizes the shipping cards based upon age and seniority. As a new guy from KP, I was an applicant, the lowest card and since it was only as old as graduation, it was generally at the bottom of the pack. The tough part about joining any union, and a maritime union in particular is having the patience to gain that seniority.


    The dispatcher then goes through the cards, calling the names. If the name called doesn't want any of the jobs on the board, they pass. This goes on until all the names are called or all the jobs are taken.

    There is also an MEBA D2 union, and they assign both mates and engineers. They do not have a job call. Instead, a dispatcher will call you at home and let you know that there is a job available. I am sure that they have some formula for how the decide who to call, but I do not know what it is.

    When I worked for Crowley, it was under an SIU contract. The SIU is primarily an unlicensed union, but they also represent some towing companies. They also have halls and job calls, but way back then, the mates and engineers were hired by Crowley and then had to join the SIU. Any unlicensed jobs on the tugs that were not filled by regular Crowley employees then went on the SIU job board.

    Some companies, (SeaRiver comes to mind) have their own company unions.

    Other companies, primarily offshore and some tug companies, are non union. I worked for a non union ship management company based out of Scotland for several years. I got the job from an add in the Houston paper. When that job evaporated after four years, I got another non union job for a Houston/Miami tanker company through some contacts.

    With a union job, you work for the scale or wage agreed in the contract. I found that when I sailed non union, I could negotiate my salary, bonus, vacation, etc. You cannot do that when there is a collective bargaining agreement in place.

    Now, I wasn't with MEBA D1 long enough to gain any seniority, but I do know that there are those that have made good careers sailing with them and the MMP. I also know that there are some who post to this board that have and can make a far better case for Union employment that I can.

    I am politically indisposed against unions, but the major maritime officers' unions do a pretty good job. I do find that reading any union newspaper or magazine to be entertaining with all the socialist workingman propaganda, but that goes with the territory and I don't really want to bring politics into it.

    If shipping was good back in the early eighties, I probably would have stayed with MEBA. I would probably be close to, if not retired by now. The thing is, like anyone's life, mine changed and my needs changed. After awhile, going to sea wasn't as appealing as it once was. If I was locked into a union career, it may have been more difficult than it was to come ashore when I did.

    As far as going non-union; all one has to do is pick up the phone (or click on the link these days).

    I know that isn't much help, but the US fleet isn't what it once was and there are a lot of academies cranking out licensed mates and engineers and there are fewer and fewer ships and boats to put the to work on. There are even fewer that are union.
     
  3. kpmom2013

    kpmom2013 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    0
    You should also consider the atmoshpere aboard union and non-union ships. My DS has worked aboard both union and non-union ships during his 2 sea years, and he describes a big difference. He was very frustrated aboard the union ship with the myriad rules and regulations. For example, he would be working with a union employee and be forced to quit for a mandatory coffee break when the job could have been completed with another two minutes of work. It does seem that there are very few non-union American flagged ships, so a newly-licensed mid will likely have to be somewhat flexible. The best way for your DS to understand the differences is to talk to the crew aboard his sea year ships.
     
  4. KP2013dramamama

    KP2013dramamama Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    Messages:
    554
    Likes Received:
    3
    Excellent information given. Thank you so very much. I should talk to our ds to find out his union/nonunion experiences, that is if he worked on both, during his sea year time.
     
  5. cmakin

    cmakin Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2010
    Messages:
    688
    Likes Received:
    74
    I have found situations like you described all depend on the crew. Day workers have two breaks each day besides lunch. Coffee Times are at 1000 and 1500 hours. In my experience, if there were just two more minutes of work, we would just finish. I have found, however, that situations DID arise when an engineer would do what is considered electrician's work (isolating motors and disconnecting electrical leads) when working on machinery. With smaller crews, I don't know how this works out. That said, many of the union ships are those Jones Act steamships that still have larger crews.
     

Share This Page