Whether you navigated to this column in print or online, you undoubtedly already know that I recently stepped down as president of the SIU. I just celebrated my 86th birthday (on Valentine’s Day), and while I’m happy to report that I am still in good health, it’s time. So, this is my farewell column, even though I’ll remain available to help whenever and wherever needed.
When I became involved with the union back in the late 1950s, I never would have believed I’d stick with it this long. But, as many of you know, this organization and this industry can get into your blood. It’s easy to get fired up about trade unionism and the U.S. Merchant Marine. Now, looking back, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It has been an honor and (mostly) a joy to work with the people who really became my extended family, and who I love so much.
Long before I became president in 1988, our officials and our members collectively had a dream. From extremely humble beginnings, we wanted to make the SIU the number one maritime union in the United States. We worked together and supported each other – and we achieved our goal.
I fully believe that our members and our officials have a very good future ahead of you. Our executive board will deliver, and we’ll become even better than we are today. We have a tremendous organization that’s built on trust and respect for one another and support for each other. We deliver for this membership, and we’ll continue doing so as the industry inevitably changes. The keys will include recruiting and upgrading.
Another key will be continued political action. If there’s one insight I’d offer to our rank-and-file members as I head out the door, it’s that we have to fight pretty much every day just to keep this industry alive. Don’t get me wrong – I genuinely believe we have a bright future in the SIU and in American maritime overall. But I also know, without a doubt, that if we look away or otherwise let down our guard, foreign-flag interests will wipe us out. That’s never going to happen, and your ongoing support of SPAD is a big reason why I’m optimistic.
We’ve all heard some variation of the saying, “Leave it better than you found it.” I have a very deep, sincere respect for the work done by our founders. I also feel proud that I am leaving this organization in excellent shape and in the best possible hands. I have the utmost confidence in all of you. Just remember that we must change in order to meet the needs of the industry.
After so many decades with the SIU, there’s no way I’m going to fall into the trap of naming names in order to say thank you. I wouldn’t know where to stop, which is a tribute to our union and to our affiliated school in Piney Point. With that in mind, I’ll simply say to all Seafarers past and present, thank you for all you’ve done to make the SIU what it is today, and thanks for all you’ve done to make my job easier. Always remember where you came from.
God bless you and your families. God bless the SIU.