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A Short History of the Maritime Trades Department

On August 19, 1946, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) issued a charter to the Maritime Trades Department (MTD) “for the purpose of organizing workers into labor unions and to form a more perfect federation of all trades.”

It was a pivotal time in the history of maritime labor.

The original charter came:

  • One month before the Maritime Strike of 1946.
  • One month after shipboard unions affiliated with the AFL won important wage increases in beefs against the Waterman and Mississippi Shipping companies.
  • Eleven months after the end of World War II.
  • Ten years after enactment of the historic Merchant Marine Act of 1936.
  • Eleven years after the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
  • Twelve years after the bloody West Coast Strike of 1934.
  • Thirteen years after the start of the New Deal.
  • And thirty-one years after enactment of the Seaman’s Act of 1915, which is widely known as the Magna Carta for U.S. civilian mariners.

It was, in other words, the start of a new era for the United States of America, the American labor movement, the U.S. maritime industry and the seaman’s age-old struggle for equality and justice.

The Continuation of an Age-Old Movement

Maritime Strike of 1946


The 1950s: Maritime Workers Build a Middle Class Life

1960-1979: MTD Secures Important Political Victories

The 1980s: Fighting to Preserve a Viable Industry

The 1990s: Building a Strong Foundation for Growth

The 1991 Persian Gulf War

2001 and Beyond

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