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The Seafarers - 1953 SIU Documentary (on YouTube)

In this 1953 promotional video the Seafarers International Union demonstrates the comprehensive approach to trade unionism the SIU was able to provide at the height of union power in the mid 1950s. From barber services, grocery stores, to entertainment and dining, the union hall of the East Coast based SIU served as a cultural center for rank and file seamen, as well as a business office, hiring hall, and organizing center. Particularly interesting are the long shots of rank and file members in the cafeteria and hiring hall. The film's director was a young Stanley Kubrick, famed director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: a Space Odyssey and other classic movies. The 29 minute film has been posted anonymously on the video hosting site YouTube in three segments. Here are links to each section.


Part one contains a lengthy introduction by Don Hollenbeck, shots of East Coast ports, a glimpse inside the hiring hall, seamen coming ashore, the business office of the union hall, the SIU print shop, a long shot of the hall cafeteria, the barber shop, union general store, and social club. It begins with shots of a sailing ship on open waters.

Click the video at right to play in the viewer. Click here to watch the video on youtube




In segment two we learn how a seamen registers for a job through the hall, with an emphasis on the equal access and transparent process of the application. Here we see close shots of the rank and file. This segment also includes sections on the the union hall's billiard facilities, library, and recreation centers. The union hall also provided a viewing gallery of original works of art made by SIU members, and a night school. Segment two also highlights the welfare benefits of the union including maternity and childcare cash payouts, college scholarships, vacation pay, hospital visits by SIU member to injured seamen, cash and personal item distribution, and retirement.

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In this segment we see the union magazine, the Seafarers Log, and learn about the material advantages of membership including increasing pay scales, the shipboard grievance process, the supportive environment of the union, the efforts to organize non-unionized sailors, the openness of membership and the democratic process of union elections, an enumeration of SIU constitutional rights, as well as a speech by SIU secretary treasurer Paul Hall: "we possess large economic strength, but we do not abuse that strength."

Click the video at right to play in the viewer. Click here to watch the video on youtube