Longtime Baltimore Official Pomerlane Passes Away at 87


May 2014


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Robert “Bobby” Pomerlane, retired SIU assistant vice president, passed away April 9 in Baltimore. He was 87.


Known for his full dedication to both the SIU and the trade union movement, Pomerlane, like others from his generation, stayed involved even after retiring in 1996. He particularly remained active with the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department’s (MTD) Baltimore Port Maritime Council, and still served as its secretary-treasurer at the time of his death.

The MTD remembered Pomerlane as “part of a committed coalition of local politicians, trade unionists, business people and community activists who pushed for policies that have enabled Baltimore to remain a top-tier port at a time when other historic facilities failed to keep pace.”


He sailed as a merchant mariner during World War II, and his days at sea with the SIU included voyages on ships operated by (respectively) Waterman, Bull Line, Calmar Steamship, Sinclair Oil, and Ore Navigation.


Pomerlane, an accomplished boxer, came ashore in 1954 and subsequently served the SIU in many capacities, including those of representative, patrolman, headquarters representative, safety director, and assistant vice president.


“With Bobby covering the waterfront, the union didn’t have anything to worry about,” said SIU and MTD President Michael Sacco. “When they made him, they broke the mold.”


Pomerlane was “SIU all the way,” recalled SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez. “He also lived and breathed the Port of Baltimore.”


“Bobby was a hard-nosed guy, but he had a heart as big as he is,” remembered Baltimore Port Maritime Council President Dion Guthrie. “There was no middle of the road with Bobby. He either liked you or he didn’t. And if he liked you, there wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for you.”


The MTD account of Pomerlane’s life credited him with “giving maritime labor a highly visible presence in one of the nation’s most important port cities. He was a force of nature who was involved with Baltimore politics. Whether it was the late Maryland Governor and Mayor of Baltimore William Donald Schaeffer or Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the president of a local union or a community activist, Pomerlane was known as a ‘go-to guy’ for maritime in Charm City.”


He is survived by his wife, Nichole, and a brother, Toby Valmas.



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