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SIU stays on course with leadership changeover and relishes new challenges ahead

15 Feb 2023

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) offers congratulations to Michael Sacco who has retired as president of the Seafarers International Union (SIU) in North America and to David Heindel who has been unanimously approved as the SIU’s new president. 

Michael Sacco has retired as president of the Seafarers International Union (SIU), the federation of 12 autonomous unions representing more than 80,000 merchant seafarers, fishers and inland navigation workers up and down the East, Gulf and West coasts of North America, the Caribbean and Central America. He chose the occasion of his 86th birthday to step down after 35 years of service in the role.  

David Heindel, ITF’s Seafarers’ Section Chair, was unanimously approved as the new president, after serving as the secretary-treasurer of the SIU since 1997.  

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Michael for his great leadership of the SIU and his work at the forefront of protection for seafarers all over the world,” said Paddy Crumlin, President of the ITF.  “His advocacy and determination to defend the Jones Act and constant support in helping us establish cabotage in Australia and around the world has never waned.” 

Solidarity has built under Sacco

Sacco leaves the SIU stronger, more determined and more focused than ever. He has navigated through many wage rounds, increasing global pressures and the Covid-19 crisis, building union solidarity in the region to tackle, head on, employers who manipulate supply chains to exploit workers. 

“It’s great to hear the news that the SIU will stay on course for generations to come with the type of strong and experienced leadership that Dave taking the helm reflects,” Crumlin went on. “I’ve worked closely with Dave for many years and know him to be a trade union leader of courage and determination, a seasoned fighter for maritime and transport workers everywhere whether it be through the Flag of Convenience campaign, the International Labour Organization or the ITF’s Executive Board. As chair of the Seafarers Trust his support for the welfare of all maritime workers has enormous reach and effect."

Heindel began his career with the union in 1973, when he graduated from the affiliated training facility in Piney Point, Maryland. He was an engineer on commercial ships for a number of years before working as a patrolman in his native New Orleans, and then a port agent in Philadelphia. He has since held a number of senior roles in the union movement in North America and Internationally.

Heindel continues the struggle

“All of us at the ITF wish Dave the very best as he takes on his new role,” said Stephen Cotton, the ITF’s General Secretary. “He has worked tirelessly with the US Department of Homeland Security, the International Labour Organization, the International Maritime Organization and leading negotiations through the International Bargaining Forum and with the International Maritime Employers' Council to advance seafarers’ rights, wages and working conditions globally.” 

“Dave is leading on challenges that seafarers face globally from negotiations with international shipowners to tackling climate change in a way that ensures justice for workers. At the ITF, we know he will continue to rise to those challenges.”  

Heindel was presented with United Seamen’s Service Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award in December 2021, in recognition for his work within the SIU and ITF for seafarers around the world.  

Jacqueline Smith, the ITF’s Maritime Coordinator, added her voice to the congratulations:

“Dave's passion for protecting seafarers and other maritime workers’ rights makes him an excellent SIU president. Thanks to Mike and Dave’s hard work as part of the wider union movement, and under Dave’s leadership I know we can continue to reach new heights.”

The ITF also congratulates the Tom Orzechowski and Bryan Powell on their respective appointments as Secretary-Treasurer and as Vice-President of the SIU’s Great Lakes and Inland Waters sector.