Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association


Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association.

Name of Union: Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (MEBA)

Mission: To elevate and maintain the rights and advance and safeguard the economic and working conditions of its members for their better protection and advancement. 

Current Leadership of Union: Marshall Ainley has been MEBA’s president since January 2014. A 1982 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, he worked with the Military Sealift Command at sea and ashore for 10 years and earned his chief engineer’s license and Group 1 membership in the MEBA. He sailed with Maersk as chief engineer for the nine years before his election as MEBA president. Bill Van Loo has served as MEBA’s secretary-treasurer since 2006. Previously, he was elected twice to the position of MEBA branch agent in Baltimore and has served as a delegate at nine national MEBA conventions. He is a third-generation member who graduated from the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School in 1983 and sailed for 17 years before beginning his service as an official in 2002. In addition to Ainley and Van Loo, MEBA’s five-person executive board includes our coastal vice presidents: Executive Vice President Adam Vokac, Gulf Coast Vice President Erin Bertram and Atlantic Coast Vice President Jason Callahan.

Members Work As: Primarily engine and deck officers on U.S.-flagged vessels, but we also represent shoreside professionals at ports, offices and in the service industries.

Industries Represented: The maritime workforce.

History: MEBA is the nation's oldest maritime labor union, established in 1875. In the late 19th century, the forefathers of the MEBA fought to eradicate dangerous and deadly working conditions on early steam-powered vessels⁠—conditions that threatened not only MEBA brothers and sisters, but all passengers at sea. MEBA was the first union to bargain for a 40-hour workweek while at sea. MEBA helped secure overtime pay and night relief. The union won the right to man their own hiring halls and to have union representatives visit ships to ensure proper working conditions. The tenacity and vision of MEBA’s founding members was ultimately rewarded. Today, with thousands of marine engineers and deck officers, MEBA members are unparalleled in maritime training and experience. 

The leader in continuing education for maritime officers, the union’s training facility in Easton, Maryland, ensures that MEBA continues to be the finest source of maritime labor. The mission of MEBA’s Calhoon School is to provide professional MEBA marine engineers and deck officers with internationally recognized, state-of-the-art training and experience that enhances the safety, reliability and profitability of their vessels while preserving and protecting the natural environment. The school’s world-class bridge simulator allows the facility to offer the intensive, cutting edge training to deck officers that our engineers have typically enjoyed.

The MEBA draws the majority of our membership from the nation’s maritime academies. MEBA is proud to provide a wide variety of lucrative opportunities to Kings Point graduates. Marine officers crew the most technologically advanced ships in the U.S.-flag fleet, including tankers, a cruise ship, Great Lakes vessels and container ships. Members sail aboard government-contracted ships of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force, on tugs and ferry fleets around the country, as well as vessels and in various capacities in the shoreside industries.

MEBA’s expertise and proven track record of readiness, safety and loyalty in answering America’s call to action is unrivaled. In times of military contingency, members sail into war zones to deliver critical defense cargo to the nation's fighting forces. MEBA members braved the perilous waters of the North Atlantic and the dangers of the Murmansk Run during World War II. Members served in every U.S. conflict since 1875 from Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Members brought critical food-aid to starving people in Ethiopia, Somalia and in dozens of other regions around the world. As America watched the tragedy of September 11 unfold, MEBA was there, ferrying thousands of people to safety in New York. During the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the tsunami in southeast Asia and through other trying times, MEBA was there, with the professionalism, pride and patriotism that has long been the hallmark of the American mariner. 

MEBA members have continually answered the country's call for military sealift power at a moment’s notice⁠—fighting injustice around the globe⁠—and doing what's right for the country. MEBA's officers have repeated their substantial contributions to the nation’s defense since 1875, in times of both peace and war. While the future of the maritime industry is in question, one thing is certain, the members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association will unceasingly fight to preserve America’s fourth arm of defense⁠—the U.S. Merchant Marine. 

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: MEBA provides members with information through the publications Marine Officer and the Telex Times. The MEBA Political Action Fund makes sure that the voices of members are heard in the policy-making realm. The Calhoon Engineering School is the union’s continuing education facility that provides state-of-the-art training to keep members on the front-end of evolving industry needs and requirements. The American Maritime Congress is a research and educational organization. MEBA offers medical and retirement and other employee assistance plans along with a member help line.

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