The Guardian October 25,2000


MUA solidarity

by Vic Williams

The trade union movement in the USA is rebuilding, according to Brian 
Roberts. Brian was seconded by the International Trades Federation from the 
Maritime Union of Australia to assist with a team in unionising the 
maritime section of the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Five US 
maritime unions are working on the campaign.

The election of progressives to the leadership of the AFL-CIO (the peak 
trade union body) has seen a determination to increase the number of 
unionised workers in the US from its current 13 per cent. They are making 
progress.

It has been hard going in the Gulf of Mexico. International companies own 
the tenders for contracts and boat crews, some of which operate in 
Australian waters.

One of these, Choest, is running an anti-union campaign, called the 
Concerned Citizens of the Community with the backing of the owners of all 
offshore vessels.

They have employed a union buster for half a million dollars for six 
months' work and have notices up all over the Byou with the slogan, 
"Working Together to stay Union Free!".

Newcomers to the industry can buy jobs on the vessels at employment 
agencies from up to $1,500. With wages at around $50 a day, they actually 
pay their own wages for a considerable time.

While they have made some headway, the union team does not get help from 
the workers in the shore areas who are not unionised, but the maritime 
industry is strongly organised in other areas and the AFL-CIO is making 
gains in the New Orleans ship building industry.

The union movement in the US has a high regard for the international 
solidarity of workers like Brian Roberts, who is to return there to 
continue his work.

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