Lioeanjie, Last NMU President, Dies at 89

 

May 2012

 

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Rene Lioeanjie, who as president of the old National Maritime Union helped implement its merger into the SIU more than a decade ago, died April 10 in Panama. He was 89 and had been in poor health.

 

Among other accomplishments, Lioeanjie will be remembered for organizing Panama Canal workers and for important efforts in the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s flag-of-convenience campaign. But his most significant achievement, according to several people who worked closely with him, was helping finalize a merger that had been attempted on and off for decades.

 

“He saved the NMU by merging with the SIU,” stated SIU President Michael Sacco. “Rene stepped forward and knew what had to be done to save his members’ jobs. He was a man of his word.”

 

Charlie Stewart, a former NMU official and retired Seafarers vice president at large who knew Lioeanjie since 1962, said his departed colleague “did an outstanding job and steered the ship right. He did the right thing in leading us to the merger and asking the SIU to accept us. Without that move, we’d probably be out on the street…. He’s to be congratulated, and I hope his family and friends recognize what he’s done for us.”

 

Lioeanjie was the NMU’s fourth president, and he held that post from 1997 until the merger took place in 2001. From then until his retirement in 2009, he was a vice president at large for the Seafarers.

 

A native of Dutch Guyana, Lioeanjie went to the United States in 1945 after sailing on Dutch-flag ships and immediately started sailing aboard American-flag vessels. He sailed as an ordinary seaman, deck storekeeper, quartermaster and bosun until he went ashore in 1955 as chief, master of arms at the New York headquarters of the NMU.

 

Moving up within the union, Lioeanjie was responsible for some groundbreaking activities and frequently represented the NMU on innovative projects—always aimed at improving the working conditions of all mariners.

 

He tackled the job of working with crews on runaway-flag vessels and later was appointed organizer for the International Maritime Workers Union, an organization formed by the NMU and the SIU to organize FOC ships.

 

Lioeanjie then went to organize seamen on public-sector vessels and federal employees in the Panama Canal Zone.

 

Working his way up through the ranks, he served as patrolman, agent, vice president, secretary-treasurer and president.

 

SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez said Lioeanjie “was very courageous in taking the step that he took for his membership regarding the merger. In difficult times, he made the right decisions for his members.”

 

SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel remembered Lioeanjie as “a very humble individual who was pleasant to work with. He worked diligently for mariners from all nations to better their lives.”

 

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said, “Both in his NMU and, later, SIU roles, he played a leading role in ITF policy. The whole family will miss him.”

 

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