OverviewThe origins of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific go back to March 6, 1885, when the Coast Seamen's Union was organized on the San Francisco waterfront by a group of three hundred sailors dissatisfied by the wages and conditions aboard ship that existed at that time.
In 1886, the Steamship Sailors' Union was organized and in 1891 merged with the Coast Seamen's Union to form the Sailors' Union of the Pacific.
The reasons for that merger are clearly stated in the preamble to the SUP Constitution: "...having been organized separately... and having thoroughly learned the value of organization, and further, that two organizations of the same craft are not for the best interests of men working at the said craft, we have determined to form one Union..."
The Sailors' Union of the Pacific has been in continuous operation, through good times and bad, for over 121 years-an achievement unequaled by any maritime union in the world.Membership: The SUP is a union of unlicensed sailors that work in the deck, engine, and steward's departments in U.S.-flag vessels under contract to the Union. The SUP also has collective bargaining agreements with U.S.-flag companies where licensed personnel are also represented.
Union Structure: The Headquarters of the SUP is in San Francisco with Branch Offices in Wilmington, California, Seattle, Washington, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Union meetings are held at Headquarters on the second Monday of every month at 1100 hours and at the Branches on the third Monday of every month at 1100 hours.
Union officers are elected every three years by secret mail ballot conducted by an impartial balloting agency selected by the membership. The duties of the officers are described in the SUP Constitution.
Membership and Seniority: Union membership and seniority are two distinct aspects of the SUP.
Membership: After 30 days employment in an SUP contracted vessel, an individual may apply to join the Union. Upon becoming a member, the individual has a voice in all the affairs of the Union, as well as the right to vote in all Union elections and after a period of time specified in the SUP Constitution, the right to go on the ballot as a candidate for elective union office.
Seniority: Seniority is important when bidding for work in the hiring hall. The system is very simple, basic, and fair: those members who have acquired more sea time in SUP contracted ships, have more seniority, and thus, more preference when bidding for work.
The seniority system is as follows:
An example of how this works: If a Tankerman-Person-In-Charge job is called into the hall by a company, a qualified member with Class "A" seniority would get the job over a member with Class "B" seniority, etc. If two members with Class "A" seniority bid for the job, the member with the oldest shipping card would get it. Shipping cards or registration is valid for 90 days.
Hiring Hall: Of the many accomplishments of the SUP, the hiring hall stands as a key achievement and is a cornerstone of the Union's operation.
Instead of the employers selecting who they want to hire, the membership itself-again by secret mail ballot referendum-decides how the work is to be rotated. Under this system, the Union itself controls the jobs, not the companies.
However, under the collective bargaining agreements with some companies, notably Chevron, the jobs that are shipped off the hiring hall shipping board are under two categories: relief and steady employment.
If a member takes a job with Chevron, the member becomes a steady or regular employee of those companies: The same as those employed by ARCO Marine and SeaRiver Maritime.
But if a member does not care for the job with Chevron and chooses to quit (or gets fired), he or she can go back to the SUP hiring hall and bid for a job on another ship with another company. Vacation and sick reliefs to those companies, as well as extra personnel, are dispatched off the hiring hall shipping board.