Union Earns Success in 2009

January 2010

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Mike SaccoLooking back on 2009, the tough economy may have dominated national headlines, but in the SIU we maintained job stability and job security. That’s what first comes to mind for me when thinking about the past year.

Another important story from 2009 – and moving forward as we kick off 2010 – is the fact that we’re still training Seafarers, including entry-level mariners, at the SIU-affiliated schools in Piney Point, Md., and Hawaii. We’re able to offer those training opportunities because of job stability.

We have a lot to be thankful for these days. Our contracted companies are growing, and we’re growing with them. That’s why we’re constantly reporting on new ships and tugs entering our SIU-crewed fleet. Those accomplishments don’t happen by accident.

Additionally, we’re fine-tuning a new computer system in all the ports which is designed to benefit rank-and-file members by helping provide better, faster service. Like anything involving computers, this setup has included some speed bumps. But, it’s a big improvement over the old arrangement and it should become even better with some additional refinements.

Last month, I got a firsthand look at another improvement: the new SIU hall in Jacksonville. It’s a beautiful building and another example of how we don’t rest on past achievements. We’re consistently working to get better in all areas.

I also want to acknowledge the staff at the school in Piney Point. They’ve done a fantastic job this past year working with upgraders and trainees. I spend a lot of time at the school, and it’s easy to see we haven’t lost our edge there. And I’m sure our members know that the courses themselves remain vitally important for those who want a career at sea. Take advantage of those classes, brothers and sisters.

Something that’s less obvious but also essential to our success is political action – an arena we’ve been involved in since our founding in 1938. We were politically active in 2009, and to cite just one example of why that’s important, we helped save hundreds of SIU jobs on the Great Lakes by tackling an environmental issue which unnecessarily threatened American-flag shipping. Without a strong political presence, those jobs and those ships would have been wiped out. And again, that’s just one example.

On that note, I credit the membership for your support of SPAD, the union’s voluntary political action fund, and for your grassroots efforts on behalf of pro-maritime, pro-worker candidates and representatives. That’s what keeps us alive. That’s what keeps the U.S. flag flying in the maritime industry.

Those are just some of the highlights for us from 2009. There were other gains and there are plenty of ongoing challenges, too. A more detailed recap appears elsewhere in this issue of the LOG, and I encourage you to check it out.

Overall, I’m proud of where we are today compared to where we were a year ago, and I’m looking forward to 2010. I expect it to be a good year, in no small part because we’re able to put well-trained, responsible, productive personnel aboard all types of ships. Our bottom line is jobs, and the key to that bottom line is the great work performed by Seafarers. None of our contracted companies would invest in new tonnage if they weren’t certain they could call on reliable shipboard personnel to protect those investments.

Knowing the unity we enjoy, and the respect we have for one another, I’m sure we’ll continue getting the job done – together – in 2010 and for many years to follow.

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