1938 saw the founding of SIU and Paul Hall was a charter member. He made his presence felt immediately. He was a tough, hard-nosed union activist and his early waterfront battles left him with ugly knife scars on his arms and legs.
His first official post in the union was as patrolman in the port of Baltimore in 1944. He rapidly moved up to become port agent in New York and then Director of Organizing for the SIU Atlantic and Gulf District. Then in 1947, he became chief executive officer of SIU-Atlantic Gulf Lakes and Inland Water District, at the age of 32. He held this post until his death. Paul Hall led the SIU in the General strike of 1947 when seamen won unprecedented gains in wages and conditions. He also organized key breakthroughs for the union in bringing Isthmian Lines (with 125 ships) and Cities Service Tankers (a strongly anti-union company) under the SIU banner.
Through collective bargaining, he also established the Seafarers Welfare, Pension and Vacation Plans. By 1954, the SIU had aided with, as Paul used to say, "money, marbles and chalk" a total of 75 brother unions in strikes and organizing campaigns. These constant battles to help other unions earned Paul Hall the lifelong reputation of one who got things done and who could always be counted on for help no matter what the problem.
In 1962, he was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council. He was senior vice president of the AFL-CIO and one of its most influential members at the time of his death. He fought continually at the bargaining table. In the words of SIU Vice President Red Campbell, "Paul Hall would go into a room of shipowners. They'd throw apples and oranges on the table and he'd come out with the fruit salad."
He established the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship in Piney Point, Maryland in 1967 in order to give young people the chance for a career at sea. Since then, the school has developed into among the finest maritime training schools in the country. Thousands of SIU members have advanced their skills, and thousands of young people from deprived backgrounds have found employment through the school.