New residential facilities in the U.K. memorialize one of the SIU’s most steadfast officials.
The union Nautilus International on May 29 dedicated the John Fay House at Mariners Park in Wallasey, England. Built with financial support from Nautilus and the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) Seafarers’ Trust, the apartments are named after the late SIU Executive Vice President John Fay, who died in 2005 at age 73. In addition to his half-century of service with the SIU, Fay also was the first American ever to serve as chairman of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, a position he held from 1995-2002.
SIU Secretary-Treasurer and Chairman of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust David Heindel – Fay’s SIU successor and close colleague, and currently also chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section – was a featured speaker at the ceremonial opening. Several of Fay’s family members attended, including his brother, Frank; his son John Jr.; daughter-in-law Christina Fay; daughter Kelly Fay; sister, Cathy Tompkins; and granddaughter, Shaina Fay.
Nautilus (which represents members in the U.K., the Netherlands and Switzerland) described the dozen dwellings as “state-of-the-art independent apartments for retired seafarers and their dependents.” They were constructed as part of an ongoing program “to upgrade and expand” services for retired mariners and their families. (Two of the apartments in the new block were built with a donation from the Aged Veterans Fund and are reserved for merchant seafarers who served alongside the armed forces at times of conflict or during national emergencies.)
During the dedication, Heindel noted that he worked with John Fay for many years. “He became my mentor and someone I admired,” he recalled. “John was a true friend and one of those rare individuals who brought calm to any heated discussion. Whether it was contentious labor negotiations or dealing with political leaders, he had a way of making people feel comfortable. And if needed, he had a way of intimidating his counterpart without raising his voice.”
Heindel continued, “On a personal note, John loved his family. He was very proud of his children and the path they chose in life…. This building is a testament to John’s professional life. I hope his spirit brings the peace and calm that made him the man that I came to know.”
Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson said he was pleased to see the latest development in the 162-year history of the union’s welfare work. “We are rightly proud of our past, but we have never sat back and rested on our laurels,” he said. “Mariners Park bears witness to the process of constant change and reassessment to ensure that we deliver not just quality services, but services that meet the real, changing and increasingly complex needs of our retired members and their partners.”
Katie Higginbottom, head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, said the charity was delighted to support the new development. “My mission in the Trust is to learn from great examples such as this, and to do more work with unions to improve seafarers’ welfare around the world,” she said.
John Fay Jr. stated, “I can’t begin to put into words the thanks and gratitude of the family. This really is a great honor for my dad.”
John Fay joined the SIU as a teenager in 1949 and sailed in both the deep sea and inland divisions. He came ashore in the mid- 1950s and continued working for the SIU for the next 49 years. He served as executive vice president from 1997-2005 after working as the union’s secretary-treasurer since 1990. Previously, the Boston native held various port-level positions in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn and elsewhere.
While his contributions to the union’s advancement in the United States were substantial, he also played a pioneering role in fully involving not just the SIU but all of American maritime labor in international efforts to promote and protect mariners’ wellbeing. Beginning in 1975, he participated in forums and other activities involving the ITF; the International Maritime Organization; and the International Labor Organization.