Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association

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Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association logo.svg
Full name Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, AFL-CIO
Founded February 23, 1875
Members 23,400 (2014)[1]
Head union H. Marshall Ainley
Affiliation AFL-CIO
Key people

H. Marshall Ainley, President

Bill Van Loo, Secretary-Treasurer
Office location Washington, D.C.
Country United States

The Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (M.E.B.A.) is the oldest maritime trade union in the United States still currently in existence, established in 1875. M.E.B.A. primarily represents licensed mariners, especially deck and engine officers working in the United States Merchant Marine aboard U.S.-flagged vessels. It is a member union of the AFL–CIO.

M.E.B.A. officers work in both the oceans and the Great Lakes in many settings, including on container ships, tankers (including LNG carriers), cruise ships, drillships, tugboats and ferries, as well as in various capacities in the shoreside ship transport and marine industries and on government-contracted ships of the U.S. Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force and U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. Merchant mariners deliver critical defense cargo to United States armed forces in times of military conflict.

Members and their families benefit from M.E.B.A.'s collective bargaining agreements through the union's Medical Plan, 401(k) Plan, Pension Trust, and Vacation Plan. The M.E.B.A.


The nation's oldest maritime union was formed out of necessity in the late 19th century. Steamship owners on the Mississippi and Great Lakes were competing with one another and demanding greater speeds from their vessels. This increase in speed greatly reduced safety in the engine room due to fires and boiler explosions. Even with increased risk, the wages remained the same.

In 1874, the Buffalo Association of Engineers began corresponding with other marine engineer associations around the country. In February 1875, the leaders of five steamship unions out of Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois and Baltimore, Maryland, convened in Cleveland, Ohio to join together. This organization called itself the National Marine Engineers Association and chose Garret Douw of Buffalo as its president. (The word Beneficial was not added until 1883.)

After Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association’s formation, the union lobbied Washington legislators to pass bills in 1884 and 1896 that would make it law for all American vessels to only possess American officers, and to grant the ability for marine engineers to attain licenses, respectably.[2] During World War 1, the need for more engineers called for the U.S. government to quickly train marine engineers, however, after the war, such practices continued, and on January 20, 1919, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association agreed to petition the use of "30 day engineers", believing there are enough resources to properly train the next generation of merchant marines.[3] The Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, as did a wide variety of worker unions, supplied labor during World War II for both naval and engineering spectrum.[2] M.E.B.A.'s membership, like that of all American maritime unions has varied widely over the years. At the end of World War I, they had more than 22,000 members, but by 1934, their membership was down to 4,848. Membership ballooned during World War II, with job opportunities for about 200,000 seamen.[4]

Following the establishment of the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1800s, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association established the Calhoon Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association Engineering School in 1966 in the Southern Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland.[5] The maritime school offers over fifty courses to union members and outside engineering professionals (as of May 1, 2007) and provides living arrangements for attendees.[6]

Colleges like the California Maritime Academy train engineering cadets in engine rooms who may seek to join M.E.B.A. after graduating.


  • 1875 : Garret Douw
  • 1876-1881 : Abner L. Foote
  • 1881 : Thomas H. Nelson
  • 1882 : Edward D. Bateman
  • 1883 : James H. Reid
  • 1884 : William E. Russell
  • 1885 : Andrew Ritter
  • 1886 : Andrew Payne
  • 1887-1888 : Aspinwall Fuller
  • 1889 : Ambrose L. Boyce
  • 1890-1892 : John H. Galway
  • 1893-1903 : George Uhler
  • 1904- 1906 : Frank A. Jones
  • 1907-1914 : William F. Yates
  • 1915-1916 : A. Bruce Gibson
  • 1917-1926 : William S. Brown
  • 1926-1930 : William F. Yates
  • 1930-1934 : C.M. Sheplar
  • 1935-1936 : William S. Brown
  • 1937-1949 : Samuel J. Hogan
  • 1950-1959 : Herbert L. Daggett
  • 1960-1963 : E.N. Altman
  • 1963-1984 : Jesse M. Calhoon[7]

M.E.B.A. Rights as an Individual[edit]

On September 7, 1990, an agreement was struck between the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish the rights the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association and its members possess. Members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association have the right to join and affiliate with any union or labor group as they please without any economic or legal repercussions.[8] Members of MEBA have the right to petition and bargain for higher wages under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.[8] Any member of MEBA may remove themselves from the union as they so desire and cannot be forced involuntarily to give money to the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association.[8] MEBA employees are required to openly communicate with union officials and the outside employer of the union member.[8] If a MEBA member is working for an employer, the employer must communicate with the Union leadership at all times and offer the employee any promotion he/she rightfully deserves.[8] If a MEBA employee is accused of a crime by an employer, the employee has the right to know any and all evidence and any incident must be one where the security and safety of the vessel was compromised.[8] Even if the MEBA member is found guilty, the information on that occurrence cannot be used against them after two years for another similar occurrence.[8] MEBA members are to be officially considered on duty until they are no longer expected to be continuously active throughout the day.[8] During a period of negotiation, the MEBA member will not face any form of discrimination from the employer.[8] MEBA employees will be required to only work a forty-hour work week, lasting throughout the weekdays.[8] chief engineers who are part of MEBA will receive the same pay as day workers unless the ship is in port, in which case they will be paid on an hourly bases.[8] If the chief engineer is forced to work more than eight hours a day, they will be paid overtime, as well as any work performed on the weekend.[8] Any employee from MEBA working on New Year’s Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas Day will be paid overtime.[8] Members can post bulletin boards on their vessels as long as the language posted is not vulgar.[8] Any member of M.E.B.A. that believes that he or she has been a victim of a breach in contract or has evidence that their rights of as a union member have not been upheld, they have two weeks after the occurrence of such act to submit their complaints to the captain of the ship.[8]

M.E.B.A. Rights as a Union[edit]

The leadership of MEBA cannot be ordered to hire a certain number of engineers or perform specific security measures by the United States Government. The organization of MEBA may fire any personnel and use any form of technology to perform their business.[8] The union leadership of MEBA must recognize all member when speaking for their grievances and will not discriminate against any member for any reason.[8] MEBA must hold a hearing officially stating the conditions of the unions and discuss matter of commerce, security, safety, recruitment and promotions.[8] On every ship in which there is a union member working aboard, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association will appoint one member on the ship as a representative of all those on board.[8] Union officials will meet periodically with members on board vessels without docking the employees’ pay, the location of such meeting is decided by the first mate of the vessel.[8] Any disagreements between MEBA officials and the employer must be handled in a way that will not affect the working order of the union members and their time at sea.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-140. (Search) Report submitted 24 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. M.E.B.A history. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from,
  3. ^ National Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (U.S.). (2015). The American Marine Engineer (Vol. 14). Chicago, Illinois
  4. ^ Author Unknown (1975). Worthy of Our Heritage, A Brief History of America’s Oldest Maritime Union, A Centennial Anniversary Publication of the National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association AFL-CIO, 1875-1975. New York, New York: Maurer Fleisher Zon & Anderson, Inc. Washington, DC. 
  5. ^ Capt. Sulzer, A. (2008). Creating a New Generation of Mariners Primary and secondary maritime education in America. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from, 31_NEW_GENERATION.pdf
  6. ^ Swaine, L. (2000). School history - Calhoon MEBA engineering school. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from Calhoon M.E.B.A. Engineering School,
  7. ^ Author Unknown (1975). Worthy of Our Heritage, A Brief History of America’s Oldest Maritime Union, A Centennial Anniversary Publication of the National Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association AFL-CIO, 1875-1975. New York, New York: Maurer Fleisher Zon & Anderson, Inc. Washington, DC. p. 39. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Human Resources Management. (1990, September 15). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from Department of Commerce,

External links[edit]