President's Column: SIU-NMU Merger a Winner

June 2011

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SIU President Michael Sacco reflects on the SIU-NMU merger and touches on this year's National Maritime Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C.


Can you believe a decade has passed since the National Maritime Union merged into the SIU? It indeed has been 10 years since that historic occasion, which itself was decades in the making.


I’m very pleased – and not the least bit surprised – to point out that the results of the merger have been every bit as good as expected. The nearly unanimous support of both memberships for the merger signified that the time was right. The leadership of both unions knew it, and that’s why we finally culminated an agreement which in earlier times seemed unachievable.


Anyone who knows SIU and NMU history understands that we didn’t exactly operate in perfect harmony after our respective beginnings in 1938 (SIU) and 1937 (NMU). But, both when the NMU affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America in 1998 and then again when the merger took place in 2001, I firmly maintained that men and women on a ship don’t care where you come from – they just care if you can do your job. And that’s exactly how the interaction between our memberships played out as we became one. Members didn’t ask if you were NMU or SIU, or if they did, it was an afterthought. They were focused on professionalism and delivering the goods, wherever and whenever needed.


Rene Lioanjie, retired former president of the NMU and a key architect of the merger, recently told me that both in 2001 and today in 2011, he believes the move “is the best thing that could have happened to our members and to the U.S. Merchant Marine as a whole.
For many years, I had been telling our members that a merger like this one was the only way to save our merchant marine. I got a lot of heat, but eventually, the members thanked me. Though we used to fight on the waterfront many years ago, I always respected the SIU,
and I think it has turned out great for everyone.”

I agree. The merger, just as we expected, has given a more powerful voice to mariners while creating a stronger manpower pool for national defense. I’m still shaking my head a little at the notion that 10 years have flown past, but this certainly is a happy anniversary.


Honoring U.S. Mariners
This year’s National Maritime Day ceremonies in the nation’s capital were truly first-class tributes to the American Merchant Marine. Both the U.S. Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration and the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command “did it right” for the annual observances, which took place May 19. So did the Propeller Club, which featured one of the greatest military advocates our industry has ever known in Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command. (General McNabb also gave the keynote address at the MSC ceremony, as reported elsewhere in this edition.)


We in the SIU do not take it for granted when individuals like General McNabb, MSC Commander Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (featured at the MarAd ceremony) and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood enthusiastically acknowledge
the proud history of the U.S. Merchant Marine as well as the ongoing need to maintain a strong American-flag fleet. In that same vein, I appreciated this year’s National Maritime Day proclamation from President Obama, who cited not only the sacrifices of mariners past
and present but also the critical role our seafarers play in U.S. national and economic security. Similar sentiments were expressed across the country in related ceremonies in Texas, California, Virginia and elsewhere where the SIU participated.


On behalf of our entire union, I thank everyone who helped plan and host those events, and I join in saluting the patriotism and professionalism of the U.S. Merchant Marine.


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