The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) mourns the passing of Seafarers International Union (SIU) Emeritus President Mike Sacco, a towering figure in the global maritime labour movement. His passing is a profound loss for the SIU, the ITF, and the seafarers he so tirelessly served throughout his remarkable career.
"On behalf of the ITF and the Maritime Union of Australia, I extend the deepest sympathies and condolences to Mike's wife Sophie, his family, friends and our SIU brothers and sisters at this demanding time," said ITF President Paddy Crumlin. "What a character Mike was. You could take the man out of Brooklyn, but you couldn't take Brooklyn out of the man. Charismatic, tough, determined, a great and inspirational leader with a sense of humour that always seemed to sum up the situation perfectly. He will be greatly missed."
Mike Sacco's legacy is one of unwavering dedication to seafarers’ rights. His leadership of the SIU for a record-breaking 35 years transformed the union into a powerful force. He was a tireless advocate for better wages, working conditions, and safety standards for seafarers worldwide.
"The American maritime unions hold a unique place in the world," said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton. "Mike's influence both before he became President and then during his record breaking 35 years at the helm set an example not only in the US but across the globe."
Sacco's impact on the maritime industry was profound. He was a visionary leader who recognised the importance of strengthening the global union movement to improve the lives of seafarers.
"He believed in strengthening the SIU and throughout his period he worked tirelessly to bring new and old American shipping companies under the SIU banner, and to ensure that SIU was at the table, protecting its members and ensuring they got the best possible contracts," Cotton said. "But he was also a true believer in the global movement, and for the ITF, he always ensured SIU had an influence internationally."
“Many unions spent hours working with Mike, exploring the history of SIU, learning from his experience, determination, vision and courage to always to be in a position of influence, whether it be lobbying the American government, in its very different shapes and sizes over his 35 years, or in ITF circles on how to use our collective leverage to benefit seafarers across the world.”
Sacco's influence extended far beyond the SIU. He was a staunch supporter of the ITF's work to promote seafarers' rights and protect their interests around the world.
"He committed himself and the SIU to the membership and their right to work with decent conditions in their own country," Crumlin continued. "Mike was without compromise an internationalist who reached out with the support of the SIU, and the political and industrial structures of the US Merchant Navy, to seafarers everywhere including in Australia in our long fight to retain our right to work in our own country."
"He followed other great SIU leaders and leaves a legacy of achievement no less than theirs. We know how close he was to Dave and Augie, along with many other officers, staff and members of SIU. We are thinking of you on the passing of a great and wonderful man. Vale Mike Sacco, a man of family and the sea, a trade unionist, an internationalist and fighter for seafarers' rights and justice worldwide."
Sacco's legacy lives on in the countless seafarers he helped and the countless lives he touched.
"Mike, thank you for all the support," Cotton said. "Thank you for your vision and your compassion. You have left a massive legacy and I'm proud to call you a friend and an advisor."
The ITF extends its deepest condolences to Mike Sacco's family, friends, and colleagues.
Rest in peace.