Teamsters union calls for fair Steamship Authority contract

An employee car with a poster on the windshield reading "FAIR CONTRACTS NOW." —Eunki Seonwoo

A labor union representing Steamship Authority employees is calling for a fair contract from the ferry line after months of negotiations. 

Teamsters Local 59, which represents 400 SSA employees, from licensed deck officers to parking lot attendants, said in a statement Thursday they are seeking more reasonable working hours to allow a better “work-life balance.” 

The current contract for licensed deck officers expires on July 26. 

“The licensed deck officers — also known as captains and pilots — are required to work 18 hours within a 24-hour period” Jeffrey Sharp, president of Teamsters Local 59, said in a statement. 

“While often only having only six hours off the clock, it has been extremely difficult to attract new hires and maintain current staffing levels,” he said.  

He told the Times that the work schedule poses a “serious safety threat” to workers and passengers. He said the union represents 50 to 60 licensed deck officers. 

According to Sharp, the “industry standard” for maritime workers is 12 hours during a 24-hour period. The U.S. Coast Guard granted the SSA an exemption over 20 years ago to allow the longer hours. 

The exemption was supposed to be a “temporary measure” and “now needs obvious updating,” Sharp said. 

“It’s time for the Steamship Authority to make a serious proposal that addresses workers’ concerns because it is abundantly clear that the current staffing levels and scheduling are not working for anyone,” Sharp said. 

Some parked employee cars at the Woods Hole ferry terminal had windshield posters calling for “FAIR CONTRACT NOW!” A crew member working on the Island Home car ferry wore a pin with the same message. 

Steamship Authority spokesperson Sean Driscoll said the ferry line was engaged in active negotiations with all its bargaining units.

“We look forward to reaching a fair and equitable agreement for both parties, as we have for many contracts in the past,” he added. “We do not discuss the particulars of union negotiations in public, so we will not comment on anything further.”


  1. Oh No! Travel on the boats has been chaotic for the past several months due to staffing issues and now we are facing a potential contract negotiation which may expire in July! Workers are totally entitled to a fair contract but with summer approaching we may be looking at the perfect storm to make travel to this island by boat precarious at best.

    • All the SSA has to do is give them a fair contract, it’s not complicated but given the current leadership I’m pretty confident they will screw it up.

    • Albert, SSA deck officers are overworked. I’ll bet not one person on this thread works those kind of hours. The industry standard of 12 hours worked out of 24 is there for a reason! Safety of passengers. The passengers should be demanding 12 out of 24 and not 18 out of 24. Are we so selfish that we would ask others to routinely work 18 hours a day?!

      • Mary, SSA deck officers are not required to work more than 12 hours in 24, it is a matter of choice. There are accommodations on board.
        The lead Captain on the Island Queen works a 12 hour shift, has an hour and half commute, each way, is that unsafe?
        Is it wrong to ask, is wrong to accept?
        Was it just plain wrong for the Coast Guard to allow this exception?
        Have you contacted your Congressman and Senator about your safety concerns?

  2. If ever there was an organization in need of a drastic leadership overhaul it’s the SSA. There’s no longer any pretending that the SSA’s many problems can be solved under the current leadership. The SSA governors need to move very aggressively, and quickly to prevent a complete suspension of service to the Islands.They know what they have to do. So do it!!

    • It starts with the people who elect County Commissioners, Selectmen, and Mayor.
      The people who appoint the Board of Governors, who hire SSA leadership.
      Do you remember who you voted for for County Commissioners.
      We the people, including Richard, own the SSA.
      How are we doing?

  3. Get the Teamsters Union involved and it will be a catastrophe and prices will go through the roof. Teamsters ruin everything

  4. Sounds to me like 18 hour shifts, where the public safety is involved, puts that safety at risk. Sometimes the Unions have a valid point.
    If the Coast Guard hadn’t allowed this there WB a larger stable of backup.
    Who benefitted? Lower fares in a monopoly> more tourists on ships>more overcrowding in Hyannis, Woods Hole and both islands.

    • It sounds to me like you don’t know that work they just 12 hour shifts, and then a meal and a bunk, for 8 hours, no commute time.
      SSA employees benefited. They made more money in fewer days, more time with family, less time commuting.

      Do we want more or less SSA service?

  5. Ms Hansen, yes more money for workers but less productivity. That is the story of unions in the USA and they have declined steadily and only represent 10 percent of the labor force today. If they are so good why are they declining. Keller would retort and say that the rich are driving them out. Bezos hates unions btw.

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