“On Watch in Peace and War Since 1875″


The Official Union Newsletter

NUMBER 35.5 – Labor Day Edition


Since 1875, M.E.B.A. has worked in unity and with friendship, to greatly improve working conditions, pay, and benefits for our membership.


Through peace and war, our members have moved freight and passengers while serving this great nation and providing for their families. The bedrock of our achievements is the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM) and all the laws and regulations that our Union, organized labor, and shipping companies have promoted and advanced for decades.


The USMM and the fate of our Union are at risk due to the impacts of congressional inaction and sequestration. We must meet these challenges head on, and as members of the oldest maritime Union in the United States you, our members, need to know exactly what we are collectively facing.


Recently, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) delivered a gloomy message to an assembled audience of maritime union officials in Washington, D.C. The message was harsh. If Congress and the Administration cannot reach a budgetary compromise and stop sequestration cuts, ships in the Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF) and Maritime Security Program (MSP) will be cut and merchant marine jobs will be lost. This will not only result in the loss of ships and the reductions to billets for merchant mariners, but it may cause shipping companies that currently operate U.S.-flagged vessels to cease operations.


MARAD sketched out scenarios where MSP could lose upwards of 15 vessels. This added to dismal news from other federal agencies tasked with operating U.S. vessels makes these cuts nearly certain.


M.E.B.A. officials have worked carefully with other maritime unions and have come to a consensus concerning five or six situations in play that will affect MARAD’s level of congressional funding. Every scenario includes the potential to cut vessels resulting in reductions in personnel. While M.E.B.A. and the other maritime unions have strong champions in Congress, reaching accord with the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the Administration is a brutally difficult task. Especially since the current political situation in D.C. is characterized by gridlock and political hostage taking.


In addition to the budget wars that are leading to relentless cuts, a new set of problems are brewing that do not bode well for the maritime industry. Due to the likely cuts to the federal budget, including to MARAD and other federal agencies that operate ships crewed by M.E.B.A. members, there are increased pressures to mitigate total vessel loss. Select and targeted cuts made in October by federal agencies operating ships will be hard but will prevent more catastrophic cuts if the budgets are sensibly administered at the beginning of the federal fiscal year. In other words, if the federal government doesn’t act now, the funds will be entirely spent and all or most of the ships in the MARAD fleet and those operated by other federal agencies will be removed from the program.


M.E.B.A. officers and staff are working closely and cooperatively with other maritime unions and vessel owners and managers to mitigate these cuts. There is a concerted effort to get Congress and the Administration to act in a positive way but the political atmosphere on the Hill is toxic and there is a significant chance no resolution will be reached that will achieve success.  More than one observer in Washington, D.C. has noted that the nation has entered uncharted budgetary waters here because MARAD and other agencies have not had to make these kinds of draconian cuts before so there is no precedent to follow.


In the course of  monitoring discussions that various federal agencies are having with the DOD (and specifically the folks at TRANSCOM), M.E.B.A. discovered it is increasingly clear that up to 20 vessels might be included in what the bureaucrats are calling a “red zone” list of vessels that might lose MSP subsidy funding. It also appears that no vessels in the MSP fleet are immune from being targeted for the red zone list, including RO/RO vessels. Federal agencies involved with the USMM are a doing a “system wide” evaluation to figure out which vessels ought to be stricken under various scenarios.


M.E.B.A., in conjunction with other maritime labor organizations and ship vessel managers, has taken a lead role in pursuing the authorization to move funds to protect ships and billets based on our Union’s presence in D.C. and based on the importance of the federal positions to the membership and the USMM.


In summary, the industry in which many of the members of our Union work is under threat.  Politics and the inability of the Congress to make choices and give clear direction to federal agencies are pointing to a dire situation. The impact of congressional inaction will hurt the job prospects of everyone working in the USMM, not just the members working aboard MARAD vessels.


However, there is hope in this dismal situation. Due to many conversations, members working aboard NOAA vessels and on Army Corps of Engineers dredges and other Corps positions are not faced with job loss. In addition, not everyone working aboard a MARAD funded vessel or in a MSP billet is going to be facing a job loss.


What we need and need now is for everyone in our Union to send a short e-mail to your congressional representatives.  Make the following points in your correspondence:


-You are employed in the maritime sector

-You and your family depend on your job

-You move America’s freight and passengers and benefit the U.S. economy

-You support full funding of the Maritime Security Program which stands to suffer under the current budget climate

Please take a few minutes to correspond with your Representatives and Senators. Do it to protect your job, your family, our industry and for the good of our Nation.  If you need help with names or addresses or writing a letter, please reach out to M.E.BA. Political Director Matt Dwyer at



The M.E.B.A. is taking a moment this weekend to reflect on the significance of Labor Day. This holiday is a special time to honor the women and men throughout America who built this great nation with their hard work and sacrifice. It serves as a reminder of all that America has accomplished in terms of providing good jobs and ensuring a worker’s right to safe and dignified employment. As a country, we have accomplished much since the days of sweatshops, child labor, and unsafe working conditions. Labor Day also serves to remind us of the work we have ahead of us to insure that every American has worthwhile and fair employment.


All of us within the M.E.B.A., whether at sea or ashore, stood in solidarity with the men and women who marched on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday seeking jobs and justice for every American. The call for civil rights, equal opportunity, and decent work resounded 50 years ago in our Nation’s Capitol and to this very day is still unfinished. Every American deserves the opportunity and hope that comes from good jobs. They deserve the jobs that allow them to take care of their families and build strong communities.


Our Union has endured many hardships and success through peace and war since 1875. Through the years, the loadstar by which we have steered has insured that our member’s jobs must be safe and provide a living wage for those who go to sea in service of commerce and our country. On this Labor Day, we wish the best for every man and woman seeking to work in our great nation with the hope that they have good work and can help build a stronger United States of America.