Participation is the key to shaping the future of our union

By Willie Barrere
National President

American Maritime Officers encompasses many things – billets onboard vessels underway and in port, offices and buildings, networks and contracts, to name just a few. Shoreside teams of dedicated officials and staff serve the professional needs of members and applicants who use these resources. Our union is, at its heart, every member of AMO and our families – all of us.

I think this is something well understood but maybe not acknowledged often enough. We all have a role to play in shaping the future of AMO. For this to be successful, the definition of what we are as an organization must be understood and it must be expanded. Our union is all of us, working together.

The AMO Executive Board and the AMO Plans Board of Trustees will hold full meetings this month. Those of us at AMO who serve on these separate boards are not new to being union officials, nor are we new to being trustees of the AMO benefit plans; yet we are looking at everything from a new perspective.

As board members of these distinct organizations, we have ideas for making improvements. We have thoughts on how to enhance contracts, services, and benefits for the membership.

The ideas we are setting out to explore are not just our own. We are bringing new ideas to the table – some supplied by sailing AMO members through direct discussion and interaction, some ideas from other sources.

Every good idea must be examined by the pros – financial and legal – to determine if it is possible to pursue, and if so, to what extent. Pension, medical, disability, maternity, physicals – all are topics of discussion we will be taking up during meetings of the joint union-employer AMO Plans Board of Trustees.

A few suggestions and potential solutions have been recommended by members, and one that comes to mind was suggested during a thoughtful conversation regarding the Medical Plan and defined benefit Pension Plan. The idea in question is already under discussion and has generated a new “outside of the box” approach to consider. Until we know more, I’m going to be light on specifics. However, based on what we’ve learned so far, our research as AMO Plans trustees can now begin in earnest on a potential solution.

The member who provided this idea had a clear and solid grasp of the AMO benefit plans and contractual contributions gained over years of discussions with others. As we talked on the phone, more information was shared and learned as I was able to convey the complexities faced.

I know many members do not thoroughly understand our benefit plans and how they operate. Many of us have at times relied upon a fellow officer’s knowledge and wisdom. Many ships have an officer or two much more passionate about these matters, and who may know more than most.

To that end, if you have a question or suggestion, if there is a topic of conversation on your ship that may require more input, please reach out to us.

A full directory, including the names, cell phone numbers, and email addresses of every union official and representative, is available through the “CONTACT” link on the AMO website or with the “CONTACT INFO” link in the mobile menu if you are looking at the website on your phone. The same directory is also in every edition of the AMO newspaper, along with contact information for all departments at the AMO Plans. The world is all about digital and we are now working on new ways to make direct contact more convenient for sailing members.

For now, call, text, email, or stop by in person if you are taking a class at STAR Center or happen to be in the area. If there is a problem, help us to help you. We may not know all the answers but we will work on getting your situation right. The more you know and the more we know, the better educated we all become.

The phone call I mentioned earlier ended well. I think we both left with a good feeling about the possibility of a new path to explore to get a better result for many members. This is one of our main goals going forward.

The conversation is just beginning. Your participation is requested. Let’s do better by working together.