Pursuing a practical, effective AMO agenda

Print Preview

Here's an outline of an agenda I will pursue for AMO this year - a practical mix of policy and politics, to be discussed openly and routinely with the AMO Executive Board and with the AMO membership.

Retirement security

Retirement security for all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO members remains a principal priority to me.

I will work with the joint union-employer trustees of the defined benefit AMO Pension Plan to secure a long overdue cost-of-living allowance (COLA) increase for current AMO retirees and another increase for active AMO members with the required minimum of five years' vesting in the AMO Pension Plan. Monthly benefits calculated for these active members were increased by 10 percent on January 1, 2020.

Additional improvement of the AMO Defined Contribution Plan will be in focus as well. One potential revision will be to increase the employer contribution rates paid into the DC Plan accounts of AMO members with five years or less of AMO covered employment without jeopardizing the rates paid into the accounts of AMO members with 10 years or more of AMO service.

The intent here would be twofold: to ease the shortage of engine and deck officers in AMO by encouraging newcomers to plan careers in our union and to discourage the harmful practice of younger members reaching the required three years' DC Plan vesting and taking their DC Plan account balances with them when they seek employment elsewhere - a waste of employer money that could be put to much better use across the board in the DC Plan or in any other AMO Plans membership benefit fund.

These proposals are tied unavoidably to several federal laws, available funding and trustee approval.

I am revising my "first responder" proposal to allow active AMO members vested in the AMO Pension Plan to draw their calculated monthly benefits for direct rollover to qualified retirement savings accounts while remaining at work and available for strategic sealift and other military support services in national security emergencies. This would require an Internal Revenue Service rule exemption.

As always on this topic, I acknowledge my friend Chad Morin - a veteran deep-sea AMO Chief Engineer and a resident of Maine - for bringing this proposal to Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins as a constituent, and for joining me in conversations with the Senator and her staff, who pitched this to the IRS for over a year before the tax agency denied the exemption with no explanation.

This "first responder" pension issue must now go the more cumbersome and time-consuming legislative route, beginning with the House Ways and Means Committee. We believe we have the necessary bipartisan support to get it through, and we will pursue the IRS exemption simultaneously and directly as well. We will encourage statements of support from members of both parties in the Senate.

On a related front, I am tracking "first responder" tax breaks at state levels - payroll and real estate tax exemptions, for example - and the intent here is to make these benefits available to qualified "first responder" AMO members where they live. Rather than establishing political operations in states, counties, cities and towns, we will begin by asking allies on Capitol Hill to promote inclusion of sealift-ready mariners in the states and Congressional districts they represent.


As we have reported, our union has taken an innovative if provocative approach to resolving the many job placement difficulties resulting from AMO employers' exclusive reliance on Anderson-Kelly Associates Inc. for "fit for duty" decisions that too often deny or delay AMO engine and deck officers jobs they are qualified for and experienced in. Anderson-Kelly standards and requirements typically supersede those of the U.S. Coast Guard and of personal and family physicians and health care specialists.

We are promoting Congressional review of Anderson-Kelly job placement policies and business practices in the knowledge that members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are far more likely to obtain timely, relevant documents from Anderson-Kelly Associates Inc. than we are in AMO or in the AMO employer companies that retain "AK" as a service provider.

Financial Stability

Our union is in an unprecedented nine years with no membership dues increase or a hike in the initiation fees charged to applicants for AMO membership.

We are also riding an eight-year steady streak of sizable monthly operating budget surpluses that began mid-year 2015, when I as the new AMO President rolled back a 2015 dues increase that had been approved by the AMO Executive Board under my predecessor.

These extraordinary developments are the sustained result of what I refer to as a productive partnership between this administration and the seagoing AMO membership in all sectors. At headquarters, we strive daily to make AMO live within its means, as all AMO member families do. In return, AMO members and applicants do their level best to meet their financial obligations to our union.

For example, membership dues revenue in January totaled $682,322.44 - $82,000 more than had been projected. Initiation fee receipts totaled $88,534 - $61,000 less than the projected amount. However, the number of applicants found to have been deficient had declined significantly from January a year ago.

The budget surplus in January was $246,771, and cash reserves hit $601,430.

The administrative tasks now are to continue to harness expenses, maintain our cash reserve accounts, protect our investments in turbulent markets and anticipate potential difficulties. We will provide detailed financial reports as we go ahead with our jobs.

Please note as well that the AMO Executive Board will continue to represent your best professional and personal interests in collective bargaining and in pursuit of new jobs in the developing offshore wind industry and other trades, and that our vessel boarding representatives will continue to see you at work.

As always, I welcome your suggestions, questions, comments and criticisms - honest conversation between this administration and the deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO membership is a priority here as well.

Paul Doell
National President

ISO 9001: 2015 Quality Management System - Certificate No. 33975