David Heindel became the sixth president in the history of the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO when the MTD Executive Board unanimously elected him during its meeting February 17 in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Heindel immediately took the oath of office after Michael Sacco informed the board of his retirement, effective upon the meeting’s adjournment.
Like Sacco, Heindel is a member of the Seafarers International Union. Only three days earlier, Heindel became the president of that union’s Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters District when Sacco, 86, stepped down.
“Dave will do a great job and has my complete confidence,” Sacco stated. “He has proven himself throughout his lifetime of service.”
Heindel joined the SIU in 1973, sailing aboard deep-sea vessels in the engine department. He came ashore in 1980 to work as a patrolman in his native New Orleans.
Heindel, 65, climbed the union ladder, working as a patrolman in both Philadelphia and Baltimore, becoming Philadelphia port agent. After serving as the union’s assistant vice president for the Gulf Coast region, Heindel became the union’s Secretary-Treasurer in 1997. He was re-elected to that post several times prior to becoming the SIU President on February 14.
He has been very active in fighting for mariner rights through the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization for decades. In 2002, he was elected vice chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section. Eight years later, he became only the second American to be elected ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair and still holds that position.
Sacco signed on with the SIU in 1958 after serving in the U.S Air Force. He became a protégé of the late MTD and SIU President Paul Hall when he came ashore to work for the union in 1960. He also moved up the union’s ranks as a patrolman, port agent and headquarters representative.
In 1968, Sacco became vice president for the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship. In 1980, he moved the St. Louis as the union’s Great Lakes and Inland Waters Vice President. There he helped rebuild the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council, which remains a vibrant part of that region’s Labor community.
The Brooklyn-born Sacco briefly served as the union’s executive vice president before moving up to SIU President upon the death of Frank Drozak. He became the head of the MTD at the same time. He is the MTD’s longest serving president. Sacco was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council during its 1991 convention. He is the most senior vice president of the council.
AFL-CIO President Elizabeth Shuler praised the work Sacco has done for mariners and the whole Labor Movement upon hearing of Sacco’s retirement.
“Mike Sacco’s distinguished career in trade unionism is an inspiration to all of us. Mike led his union with integrity and a fighting spirit that he learned as a rank-and-file member. It’s been an honor to have him serve on the AFL-CIO Executive Council for more than three decades, always quick to offer sage advice and guidance about the future of our movement. We wish Mike nothing but the best in retirement and know he’ll always be ready to take up any fight that boosts working people.”