You understand that there are certain risks associated with your career in the maritime industry. You also take comfort in the knowledge that there are laws in place and organizations working to help protect you from those risks. One such law is the Jones Act, which entitles you to maintenance and cure to help deal with the expenses that accompany injuries you sustain at sea. You might also be afforded certain protections through your membership in a labor union. Yet several of the clients that we here at Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha LLP have worked with have been surprised to learn the sometimes those two support venues can be at odds with each other.
Oftentimes, you labor union will include in your contract with an employer how much you can collect in maintenance and cure. For example, in the labor contract developed by the Seafarers International Union and its contracted companies in 2001 (as shared by the Cornell University Law School), it stipulates that union members are entitled to $8 per day in maintenance and cure should they be injured (which comes out to a total of $240 for an average month). If you have similar stipulations in your union contract, that is the maximum benefit you will receive (regardless of the circumstances of your case).
What if that is not enough? Lawsuits have challenged that restriction arguing that seafarers like yourself should be entitled to greater protections regardless of union affiliations. A ruling issued late last year by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, stating that union contracts should not overrule basic maritime rights. This may offer hope that you might be able to collect more than your union agreement stipulates (if it is needed).
More information on your rights to maintenance and cure can be found here on our site.