Magazine article The Progressive

Tugboat Pilots on Strike

Magazine article The Progressive

Tugboat Pilots on Strike

Article excerpt

Lake Village, Arkansas

One of the most dangerous occupations in America is tugboat pilot. Employees of the tugboat industry have nine times the death rate of the average U.S. worker. They work in cramped conditions, and towboat companies often refuse to allow pilots to communicate with their families while on the job or to leave the boat while at port.

On April 4, Pilots Agree, a union representing a third of the nation's 3,000 tugboat pilots, called for a strike.

The striking pilots also say that companies ask them to violate federal laws. If a radio, generator, or other equipment fails, pilots are required to report to the Coast Guard immediately. But the union says many tugboat operators prefer to be contacted first and to solve the problem from land without involving the Coast Guard.

The pilots also say they must often dump oily bilge into riverways or risk sinking because their boats are not equipped with the proper machinery to separate oil from the water that seeps in. …

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