March 31, 2013

Maine Voices: Maine lobsterman no stranger to unions

By CHARLES SCONTRAS Special to the Telegram

(Continued from page 1)

20121025_Sandy
click image to enlarge

Maine’s traditionally independent lobster fishermen have been known to organize in tough times.

2012 Press Herald file photo

National organizers joined in the labor organizing crusade and, in what was a first in labor union history, took a nautical turn as they hired a 36-foot sloop with AFL emblazoned on its sails to organize lobster fishermen along the coast and Nova Scotia.

On January 22, 1907, a charter was issued to the lobster fishermen as an affiliated international union and By the fall of 1907, the new union reported 1,055 members and 22 locals.

Counted among the achievements of the embryonic union was its success in bargaining with local buyers and with "smacks," usually steamers sent out by wholesale dealers from Portland, Rockland and elsewhere, which were able to store between 3,000 and 10,000 lobsters in their wells. Some of the steamers were persuaded to fly the union flag and to handle nothing but union lobsters. 

In 1931, lobster fishermen renewed efforts at unionization. Yet again, in 1954, they organized the Maine Lobstermen's Association to exert a measure of control over their labor, only to discover they collided with the nation's Sherman Anti-Trust law.

In recent years, tie up of their lobster boats in protest served as a strong statement of their reservoir of anger and militancy.

Today, they are once again reuniting with their militant tradition to protect and enhance their interests via the labor movement.

Charles Scontras of Cape Elizabeth is a historian and research associate at the Bureau of Labor Education of the University of Maine.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)