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American Maritime Officers

American Maritime Officers (AMO) is a national labor union affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America. With an active membership of approximately 4,000, AMO is the largest union of merchant marine officers in the U.S. and primarily represents licensed mariners working in the United States Merchant Marine aboard U.S.-flagged merchant and military sealift vessels. AMO also holds an expanding presence in the international fleet.

AMO officers work in the Military Sealift Command fleet of large medium-speed roll-on/roll-off vessels (LMSRs), and aboard military prepositioning ships, fast sealift ships, T-5 tankers, Ready Reserve Force ships and several others operated by private-sector ship managers for MSC and the Maritime Administration.

AMO has pioneered new job opportunities for American officers in the international fleet. AMO officers work aboard liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers in the international trades. RTM Simulation, Training, Assessment & Research (STAR) Center, operated by the AMO Safety & Education Plan, is the only U.S. maritime training institution with a Coast Guard approved LNG program certified to the standards of the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO). With developed international equivalencies, AMO officers can crew vessels registered with more than a dozen flag states.

AMO represents the engine and deck officers and stewards for the vast majority of the U.S. Great Lakes dry bulk fleet. AMO contracts on the Great Lakes provide wage and benefit packages, guaranteed family leave and job and benefit security.

AMO has collective bargaining agreements covering scores of inland vessels, including ocean-going and harbor tugs, ferries and cruise and excursion vessels.

The AMO fleet roster also includes the only U.S.-owned cable installation and repair vessels in service.

AMO members and their families draw employer-paid benefits from the AMO Medical, Vacation, Pension and Money Purchase Benefit Plans, as well as from individual accounts through the AMO 401(k) Plan. The AMO Safety & Education Plan provides AMO members and applicants with comprehensive maritime training, license upgrading and STCW certification programs at the RTM STAR Center sites in Dania Beach, Florida, and Toledo, Ohio.


AMO was chartered on May 12, 1949 as the Brotherhood of Marine Engineers by Paul Hall as an affiliate of the Seafarer's International Union of North America. The original membership consisted entirely of civilian seafaring veterans of World War II. In 1953 at the SIUNA's Sixth Biennial Convention of the SIUNA the BME gained autonomy, which would allow it to adopt its first constitution and elect officers for the first time.

The first constitution was drafted by Edward Reisman, Rudolph Wunsch, James Wilde, Everett Landers, Peter Geipi, and William Lovvorn, who "wanted to craft a document that would provide for free and fair elections, set the terms of office for official positions, specify the duties of union officials, provide for charges, trials, and appeals, permit rank and file membership inspection of the union's financial records, and permit amendments by rank and file vote." The constitution, allowing for the election of a president, two vice-presidents, and a secretary-treasurer, was adopted with 96 percent of the membership voting to adopt it. Wilbur Dickey was elected first president on December 15, 1953.

In September 1954, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) recognized the fledgling union, by granting it "exclusive jurisdiction within the federation over 'licensed engine room personnel on self-propelled vessels.'"

The BME Welfare Plan was growing at an impressive rate under the care of Director of Welfare and Special Services Ray McKay. In August 1954, he reported its assets to be in excess of $100,000. The plan offered a number of progressive benefits, such as full surgery coverage for members and their families, and full coverage for seeing a physician. In February on 1955, the union began pursuing the "first pension plan ever for U.S. merchant marine officers," which was well underway by November 1955.

In 1957, Wilbur Dickey resigned the union's presidency and Ray McKay took the position on January 17, 1957. Later that year, on October 29, 1957, McKay and then-president of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association H.L. Daggett signed an accord leading BME to merge with several MEBA locals. The newly formed entity was known as MEBA's Great Lakes District Local 101. In 1960, after an internal reorganization of MEBA, this entity was now known as "District 2 MEBA."

In 1992, while functioning as an autonomous union within MEBA, "District 2" reverted to its original name of "American Maritime Officers." AMO finally withdrew from MEBA in 1994 and resultingly lost its AFL-CIO affiliation This was restored after approximately a decade, on March 12, 2004 when Michael Sacco presented AMO with a charter from SIUNA.

Today, AMO thrives as a national union representing licensed officers in all sectors of the United States merchant fleet, including ocean-going, Great Lakes and inland waters aboard commercial, military support and cruise vessels.

On January 8, 2007, Tom Bethel was appointed by the AMO national executive committee to fulfil the term of former president Michael McKay. Bethel had formerly served as AMO's national executive vice president. McKay had been convicted of "three counts of mail fraud and two recordkeeping offenses. He was found not guilty of embezzling from an employee benefit plan.".

McKay's brother, former AMO National Secretary-Treasurer Robert McKay was convicted of two counts of mail fraud, embezzlement, and two recordkeeping offenses. The father served as AMO president for 36 years.

Great Lakes Strike of 2007

On May 9, 2007, the AMO went on strike against the Wisconsin & Michigan Steamship Company. The dispute focused on three Great Lakes 'river class' self-unloading bulk carriers: the M/V David Z, the M/V Earl W, and the M/V Wolverine.

The ships, nearly identical in appearance, are owned by Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Company. Headquartered in Lakewood, Ohio, the company is a subsidiary of Sand Products Corp. The ships were purchased from Oglebay Norton for $18.7 million in 2006. They were operated under time-charter agreements with Lower Lakes Transportation Co., a division of Rand Logistics Inc. The strike was called on May 9, 2007 when the company "refused to sign a pattern agreement already agreed to by three other Great Lakes operators." The union stated that job security and benefits were the key unresolved issues. AMO members, including deck officers, marine engineer, and stewards walked off the ships on May 10, 2007. The strike delayed the Wolverine's arrival in port.

The ships stood idle in Sarnia, Ontario for some time. The strike cost the company some $1 million in losses in the second quarter of 2007, according to Trade Winds. The collective bargaining agreement covering these ships expired in July 2007.

The Wolverine got underway en route to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with non-union officers in August 2007 and the David Z and Earl W are expected to sail soon with non-union officers.


In August 2002, AMO was served with a summons and complaint by a former Plan employee alleging that AMO tortiously interfered in his employment. The complaint seeks damages in an unspecified amount in excess of $15,000. Due to the ongoing government investigation, the Court entered an order to stay the case until further order of the Court.

AMO is named as a respondent in a charge before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York. As of the filing of this form, the outcome of this litigation is not known.

During the fiscal year ended March 31, 2006, AMO discovered that the former National Vice-President Deep Sea, Thomas Kelly, entered into a plea agreement with the United States government. In the agreement he pled to one count charging him with embezzlement from a labor organization in the approximate amount of $32,500 through the submission of false and inflated expense vouchers through the years 1996 through 2001. The labor organization has initiated steps to recover the amount of the loss.


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