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Posted: July 2, 2008

Moving on with policy agenda after AMO election

By Tom Bethel
National President

The voting American Maritime Officers membership majority spoke by secret ballot in the limited rerun election that ended June 24, and I listened closely to what was said.

The outcome reflected continued confidence in me and in other incumbent AMO officials, and we appreciate the union-wide support we received. The vote also ended all doubt about the legitimacy of my administration, and it validated the policy agenda I had pursued since assuming office in January 2007.

But the numbers also confirmed persistent backlash from controversies linked to individuals no longer associated with our union. A six-year federal investigation of AMO and AMO Plans and the consequent criminal case that ended with the felony convictions of four former AMO officials and one former AMO employee left the unfortunate and inaccurate impression that wrongdoing in AMO was not confined to those identified and punished by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Justice.

We will work to overcome this mistaken notion, and we will earn the trust of those deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO members who accepted it. In time, everyone in our union — and the outside interests following these developments closely — will know the truth.

Meanwhile, we respect the decisions made by AMO members who voted for other candidates. Emotion was certainly a factor in some cases, but we know that most individual choices were driven by what members believed was in the best interest of American Maritime Officers, the largest and strongest union of U.S. merchant marine officers. This election was perhaps the ultimate expression of independent thought and healthy dissenting opinion — which my administration has encouraged at every turn over the last 18 months.

We also respect Chris Bartlett, a deep-sea captain who defeated veteran Great Lakes official Dan Smith for the key office of national executive vice president.

Dan logged 35 years of productive service to our union, gaining extensive practical experience at every administrative level. Dan organized engineers, mates and stewards in the steel fleets and in independent companies, manned picket lines, serviced vessels, settled grievances and pursued arbitration, tended to AMO properties and other assets in Toledo, negotiated contracts, advocated U.S.-flagged Great Lakes maritime labor and industry interests in Washington, represented our union in labor-industry coalitions (including the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force) and served locally as the principal representative of the Maritime Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Dan was an important ally to me when I became national president of AMO and began restoring our union’s reputation and its credibility. I wish Dan and his family well.

Brother Bartlett will succeed Dan in Toledo, where he will earn a salary and a benefits package commensurate with his position, effective July 1. Chris has a lot of work to do and a lot to learn, but he will have the support of Great Lakes Vice President Don Cree, Great Lakes Assistant Vice President Brian Krus and a dedicated support staff. Chris will have my support and the support of all AMO officials, representatives and employees.

With the election behind us, and with the reasonable expectation of no dispute over the outcome, my administration can continue the work we began in January 2007 to make American Maritime Officers bigger and better than ever.

Our policy program includes:

  • Expanding upon the good-faith initiatives we have taken in the interests of reconciliation, renewal and reform in our union

  • Additional measures to improve direct communication between my administration and the seagoing AMO membership, including more informational membership meetings in major U.S. deep-sea ports and overseas

  • Honest, open, responsive and responsible representation of all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters members by all AMO officials, representatives and employees

  • Traditionally sound management of the AMO treasury and other assets

  • Sustained pursuit of worldwide contacts that could lead to worldwide contracts providing additional long-term employment for AMO members in the fast-growing international liquefied natural gas trades and other potentially lucrative markets, with complete participation by AMO members and their families in the AMO benefit funds

  • Greater guidance of AMO members down diverse, unprecedented and unequaled career paths with covered employment in senior positions at sea, ashore or in combination, in the United States and abroad under our union’s groundbreaking agreement with Faststream Recruitment Inc.

  • AMO’s continued reign as the leading source of licensed civilian seagoing professionals on vessels operated by the private sector under Military Sealift Command and Maritime Administration charter

  • Continued ahead-of-the-curve curriculum development at the AMO Safety and Education Plan’s Simulation, Training, Assessment and Research Center

  • Enhancement of benefits from the AMO Medical, Pension, Vacation, Money Purchase Benefit and 401(k) Plans for all AMO members and their families whenever possible and practical

  • Legislative legwork to ensure full funding of the Maritime Security Program each year, renewal or replacement of the MSP beyond its expiration in fiscal 2015, enforcement of the Jones Act and the U.S.-flag cargo preference laws, adequate funding of defense shipping programs, development of U.S.-flagged short sea shipping services in all domestic markets and realistic ways to encourage private investment in U.S.-flagged LNG tankers.

    This program represents job and benefit security for all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO members and their families. It represents greater participatory democracy as our union’s governing principle.

    But this agenda cannot advance if our union does not. My administration intends to move on, and we want all of the men and women we are honored to represent along for the ride. As always, we welcome your questions, comments and constructive criticisms.