SIU President Michael Sacco reflects on the union’s accomplishments and looks at the challenges ahead
The SIU enjoyed another successful year in 2012, thanks in large part to the hard work of rank-and-file members, union officials, and the instructors and staff at our affiliated school in Piney Point, Md. We also did well – despite the economy – thanks to productive, cooperative relationships with our contracted ship operators, with military leaders and with key personnel at federal agencies that affect maritime.
If I were to put it in football terms, I’d say we won big but didn’t post a shutout. Overall, though, it was a year of many gains, most importantly when it comes to new contracts and new ships.
As I enter another year serving as your president, I still very much consider it an honor. It’s a challenging, exciting, rewarding job – one that constantly keeps me energized. One thing that’s been the same in each of those years is that all of the efforts by the union and the school point back to the jobs and job security of Seafarers. That’s what it’s all about, and as I’ve said in slightly more colorful terms, without jobs, the rest is really meaningless.
Even though we’ve bucked national trends with our contracts, we recognize that these are leaner and meaner times. We have to understand the economics of the industry in order to secure those good contracts. We must – and do – support and work with our operators through the inevitable ups and downs of the business. When you combine that kind of mutual respect with the top-notch, well-trained shipboard manpower the SIU delivers, that’s how you end up with collective bargaining agreements that I believe are the best in the industry.
We’ve got a year-in-review piece in this edition of the LOG and I encourage Seafarers to check it out. It’s a good look at our accomplishments and a reminder of what we can achieve by working together.
Meanwhile, I believe the best thing that’s recently happened to us outside of our industry is the re-election of President Obama and Vice President Biden. We continue to have friends on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, but it’s a relief knowing we’ll move forward with a pro-worker administration that backs maritime. As we take one last look back on 2012, I again thank Seafarers for your support during all of the campaigns, including your participation in SPAD.
For those members who haven’t contributed to SPAD, which is the union’s voluntary political action fund, I’d encourage you to think about it. We support pro-maritime candidates through many grassroots activities that don’t involve money, but financial contributions are an important part of today’s politics, and that won’t change anytime soon. Please contribute as much as you can.
Looking ahead, I’m optimistic about our future. After Thanksgiving, in my role as a vice president of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, other labor leaders and I met with Vice President Biden at the White House. I came away from that meeting convinced that we can, and will, have true opportunities to help America’s working families and grow the labor movement.
One way to help achieve those goals is to keep the federation’s political machine running, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Election Day 2012 may have passed, but the AFL-CIO and its affiliates, including us, already are looking to the congressional campaigns in 2014 along with a few governors’ and state house races slated for this year. Here’s hoping they won’t follow the Michigan right-to-work (for less) example and will see less extremism and a more civil tone when that time rolls around.
For now, I continue to view the SIU as a family and team that cares about each other and works together. That has worked to our advantage since our founding, and will be our plan for growth and strength as we enter our seventy-fifth year as the Brotherhood of the Sea.