STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Staten Island-based maritime union, Local 333, has voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.
Local 333 of the United Marine Division represents 1,300 New York Harbor mariners, including tugboat captains and crews, Staten Island Ferry workers, Circle Line and other tourist boat crews. By mail ballot, the union voted by more than a 2 to 1 margin in favor of the merger — 423 “yes” votes and 182 “no.”
“This is a great day for the Masters, Mates & Pilots. We are grateful for the confidence that the membership of Local 333 has placed in our union,” said Don Marcus, president of the Masters, Mates & Pilots (MMP), in a press release. “Now that the ballots have been cast, we can now join forces to build better working conditions for mariners in New York Harbor and all along the Atlantic Seaboard.”
The union will now wait for an official MMP vote to accept the merger, which will be tallied in early December.
Steve Werse, secretary-treasurer of MMP, was extremely confident that the organization would vote in support of the merger. “Our membership has not expressed one negative comment about [the merger]. From the feedback from our groups, we feel that the vote is going to be incredibly positive,” he said.
If the vote passes, Local 333 will be renamed the Atlantic Maritime Group of the MMP on January 1, 2015, when the merger would go into effect.
Ron Tucker, acting secretary of Local 333, told the Advance that the merger would be a “win-win both for folks in maritime here in the New York and New Jersey area and for the Masters, Mates & Pilots … Through this merger we will gain strength, we will gain access to legal, lobbying and financial support, to a state-of-the-art training facility and yet we will still maintain local control.”
For Tucker, there were two driving factors for the merger. The MMP would offer Local 333 members more advanced industry resources for maritime careers and end decades of financial issues the union has faced stemming from a failed strike in 1988 that led to a reduction in wages for most of its members.
Since Local 333 and MMP joined the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) in 1972, there have been talks of a merger. There was a failed attempt in 2011, due to Local 333 financial issues. “But we were able to approach the ILA this March with the idea. And it recognized the merit of this idea,” Tucker told the Advance. “The ILA was for this stronger entity under the ILA umbrella.”
Both Tucker and Werse agreed that, if the merger passes, it’s important to keep a local presence. Local 333 began the process of selling its Stapleton building headquarters before merger talks, but Werse said that the future Atlantic Maritime Group would have headquarters somewhere in the New York Metropolitan area.
“We’re going to take the time to look at the current location and address the means of the members,” said Werse.