Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association
Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, AFL-CIO
|Founded||February 23, 1875|
|Adam Vokac, President|
Roland "Rex" Rexha, Secretary-Treasurer
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.
The nation's oldest maritime union was formed out of necessity in the late 19th century. The introduction of steamships in the early 1800s increased the demand of engineers needed to maintain them operating. Steamship owners on the Mississippi and Great Lakes were competing with one another and demanding greater speeds from their vessels. However, the concept of steam engines powering these ships was still relatively new and the study of marine engineering was barely starting to develop as the engineers hired learned aboard the ship. The engineers hired to manage the steam engines were shore-side engineers since the marine engineer did not exist yet. It was a completely new kind of field compared to the shore-side work they were used to. The unfamiliarity with the specifics of what engineers were working with and the fact that the steam engine was in its earliest stages meant that the ships were boarded with engineers of minimal marine engineering knowledge and unreliable machinery. 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.
The ongoing injuries and deaths from working on the steamships finally motivated engineers to demand a means of safety regulations from Congress in order to acquire protection and improve their working conditions. In 1838, the first Steamboat Act was implemented, however it was very inefficient because its legislation was vague and so the tragedies on steamships continued. The lack of improvement from the Steamboat Act led to and even greater demand to make the act stronger and more efficient. This continued until 1852 when Congress passed an enhanced version of the Steamboat Act which required engineers to have a license to work on steamboats and enforced an inspection system for the machinery.
The first gathering of the Buffalo Association of Engineers in 1854 an essential role model for the unionization of M.E.B.A. The Buffalo Association of Engineers implemented the topics of discussion such as wage which helped them fight wage cuts until they dismembered the association. When wages started to be cut again, cities such as Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit took after the Buffalo association and created organizations of their own. Individually, these city-wide associations were merely effective, therefore this brought on the idea to unite the one-city associations as a national movement. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
- 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
- 1985–1992 : C.E. (Gene) DeFries
- 1992–1994 : Gordon Ward
- 1995 : Joel Bem
- 1996–1998 : Alex Shandrowsky
- 1999–2001 : Larry O'Toole
- 2002–2007 : Ron Davis
- 2008—2010 : Don Keefe
- 2011—2013 : Mike Jewell
- 2014—2020 : Marshall Ainley
- 2021— : Adam Vokac
== MEBA vs. Howard A. Thor and Jan Moehl, Individuals = M.E.B.A. vs. Howard A. Thor and Jan Moehl, Individualstrial involved M.E.B.A. District No.1, the Pacific Maritime Association (P.M.A, an organization that represents ship industry employers) vs. Howard A. Thor and Jan Moehl, Individuals (Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, 2018). The hearings took place in San Francisco, California with twenty-seven hearing dates between August 27, 1971 and January 5, 1972.The men argued that the respondent union (M.E.B.A.) had registered and dispatched candidates from its exclusive hiring hall based on unlawful preferences and unfair considerations under the meaning Section 8(b), 2, and 1(A) of the Act and questioning if a licensed officer had authority over unlicensed personnel aboard a ship. The trial examiner found that M.E.B.A. had an agreement with P.M.A. in which the M.E.B.A. would handle all the dispatches for them. The unlawful preferences claimed by Thor and Moehl were that M.E.B.A. would give preference to their own members, applicants to become members, and graduates of their maritime schools in the hiring halls which was seen unfair by non-M.E.B.A. members. In the end the trial examiner, Martin S. Bennett, agreed in favor of MEBA that there had been no unfair labor practices made and that the licensed officers when appointed to supervise by employer and the approval of the union had the authority to discharge an unlicensed worker, therefore the complaints were dismissed.
By becoming a M.E.B.A. member, M.E.B.A. provides a medical plan includes prescription drugs, dental, mental health, disability, life, accidental death, and dismemberment benefits for MEBA members and their dependents by completing what they call a Permanent Data Form. They also offer four kinds of M.E.B.A. Pension Plans. The “Regular Pension Plan” means members can retire with a regular pension plan if members have twenty years of accredited pension years, regardless of what age they retire. The “Reduced Pension Plan” is for those who have less than twenty accredited pension years and have reached the normal retirement age of sixty-five years old or the fifth anniversary of the start date of the pension plan. The “Early Retirement Pension” is for those who choose to retire early when members reach the age of sixty and have a minimum of fifteen accredited pension years. Lastly, there is the “Disability Pension” in which members can retire early if they have become permanently disabled and have a minimum of ten accredited pension years. There are also ways these pensions can be distributed in situation of marriage, children, and death. M.E.B.A. also provides a 401(k) plan in which members have the option enroll for and if they do they can name a beneficiary. A Vacation Plan is also provided in which is determined by the collective bargaining agreement with the employer, the type of vessel members work on, number of days of Covered Employment, and their rating.
444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 800
Washington, DC 20001-1570
- Current President: Adam Vokac (2021–present)
- Current Executive Vice President: Claudia Cimini (2021–present)
- Current Secretary-Treasurer: Roland "Rex" Rexha (2021–present)
- Current Atlantic Coast Vice President: Jason Callahan (2017–present)
- Current Gulf Coast Vice President: Adam Smith (2021–present)
Rights as an individual
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. Members of MEBA have the right to petition and bargain for higher wages under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. 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. MEBA employees are required to openly communicate with union officials and the outside employer of the union member. 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. 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. 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. MEBA members are to be officially considered on duty until they are no longer expected to be continuously active throughout the day. During a period of negotiation, the MEBA member will not face any form of discrimination from the employer. MEBA employees will be required to only work a forty-hour work week, lasting throughout the weekdays. 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. 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. 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. Members can post bulletin boards on their vessels as long as the language posted is not vulgar. 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.
Rights as a union
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. The union leadership of MEBA must recognize all member when speaking for their grievances and will not discriminate against any member for any reason. MEBA must hold a hearing officially stating the conditions of the unions and discuss matter of commerce, security, safety, recruitment and promotions. 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. 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. 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.
Associated port locations
- Seattle, Washington
- San Francisco/ Oakland, California
- Los Angeles/ San Pedro, California
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Houston, Texas
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Tampa, Florida
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Baltimore, Maryland
- New York/ New Jersey
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Boston, Massachusetts
- International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots
- Seafarers International Union of North America
- National Maritime Union
- The Maritime Trades Department AFL-CIO
- United States Merchant Marine
- United States Maritime Administration
- American Bureau of Shipping
- International Maritime Organization
- US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-140. (Search) Report submitted March 24, 2014.
- National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (1975). Worthy of our heritage: [a brief history of America's oldest Maritime Union, published in commemoration of the centennial anniversary, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association. 1875–1975]. New York: National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
- Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. M.E.B.A history. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from mebaunion.org/, http://mebaunion.org/MEBA/m-e-b-a-history/ Archived March 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- National Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (U.S.). (2015). The American Marine Engineer (Vol. 14). Chicago, Illinois
- 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.
- Capt. Sulzer, A. (2008). Creating a New Generation of Mariners Primary and secondary maritime education in America. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://www.uscg.mil/, https://www.uscg.mil/nmc/announcements/archive/proceedings/training_education_pdfs/ 31_NEW_GENERATION.pdf
- Swaine, L. (2000). School history – Calhoon MEBA engineering school. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from Calhoon M.E.B.A. Engineering School
- 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.
- United States National Labor Relations Board (1972). United States of America before the National Labor Relations Board division of trail examiners branch office San Francisco, California, Case 20-CB-2443: District No. 1 – Pacific Coast District, M.E.B.A., National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, AFL-CIO, and Howard A. Thor and Jan Moehl, individuals and Pacific Maritime Association, party to the contract. San Francisco, CA: [publisher not identified].
- Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (2019). "Medical & Benefits". MEBA Benefit Plans. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
- Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (2019). "Pension". MEBA Benefit Plans. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (2019). "401(k)". MEBA Benefit Plans. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (2019). "Vacation". MEBA Benefit Plans. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (2018). "Directory" (PDF). Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Human Resources Management. (September 15, 1990). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from Department of Commerce, http://hr.commerce.gov/s/groups/public/@doc/@cfoasa/@ohrm/documents/content/prod01_008882.pdf
- M.E.B.A. Website
- M.E.B.A. Plans
- Marine Engineers, from the Waterfront Workers History Project
- Calhoon M.E.B.A. Engineering School
- State Maritime Academies
- Election contributions at OpenSecrets
- M.E.B.A. on Facebook
- National Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association Records. 1926–1939. 10 cubic feet. At the Labor Archives of Washington State, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
- Guide to the Vernon R. Stedman Papers. 1933–1972. 1.21 cubic feet (2 boxes).