Sunday, October 6, 2013


 This letter from the wife and Sister in Law of Tugboat Captains was first published as part of "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER", an NMA publication serialized on this site last year. The National Mariners Association (NMA) pushed hard the last couple of years for work place safety regulations that would reduce this sort of tragedy. Neither party in Congress lifted a finger. Jones Act seamen continue to die, bridges are toppled, widows made and orphans left and the only concern of Congress has been a four year attempt at passing a budget. This isn't about National Park closures and other tricks of the Democrats to try pass the blame for sequestration, fiscal cliffs, etc. on to the Republicans, or Republican attempts to spin things against the Democrats. This is a look at some of the real work of government left undone. If you haven't already read "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER " you can find it clicking on which brings you to our MERCHANT MARINE INTEREST SECTION (also reachable by clicking on that title in list of special interest pages in the right hand margin)

The Letter of Rita Billiot to the NMA

 I am prompted to write this letter after what happened to my brother-in-law, Collins Verret. Collins has been a mariner all his life. He's in his late 50s. He was working on the boat when he had a stroke. Crewmembers found him on the deck in his room, where he had gone to try to get some rest after working far beyond his normal shift. He is left-handed; now he is paralyzed on his left side and confined to bed and a wheelchair.[Editorial notes (1) See "Lies, Ignorance, or Incompetence? below(2) The "truth"is that he had worked for almost 48 hours without meaningful relief. This was revealed in depositions taken two years after his stroke

 He was being overworked on the job. Nobody cared that he could not get the rest he needed, and he did not eat right. He is now a man that is not able to to do anything for himself anymore. He is depressed all the time, feels useless because he can not support his family anymore. His son had to drop out of school to help his mother take care of his dad. She is not well herself.

 What gets to me the most is that not one of the company owners or officials from the company office ever went to the hospital to see about him. They have not as much as called. They even tried to get out of paying his benefits by saying that it was not an "at fault"incident (AAB Editorial note: Admiralty law requires vessel owners to pay "maintenance, cure and lost wages" for any seaman who is injured or takes sick "while in the service of the ship", no fault is required.) Might I say though, that members of our Association did go see about him and have kept up with his progress.

 With all I have seen with my husband being a mariner (and my brother and brother in law are also mariners), these company "higher ups" are the most unappreciative, ungrateful unconcerned bunch of employers I have ever seen. They could care less about what happens to these men when they get hurt while working for them or get fired for a stupid reason, as once happened to my husband. As long as they have their bills paid, drive their nice vehicles, go home to their fancy houses in the best neighborhoods, eat at the finest restaurants, they simply don't care. They need to remember one thing though. It's our husbands, the men who sweat and risk their lives and licenses that make possible the owner's big fat paycheck. [R&B Falcon fired her husband for refusing ti leave port on an international voyage until his tug's navigation equipment was repaired. He finally sued and recovered for wrongful termination.]  

 Who am I? I am a concerned wife of a seaman who is fed up with the abuse and the neglect from these companies. I am staying in contact with our Association to try to put a stop to these companies that are abusing and neglecting their employees. Since there "rules and regulations"for the mariners to follow and there should be "rules and regulations" for these companies to be held accountable for as well. They need to be held accountable for breaking the rules just like the seamen are when something happens on a boat.

Rita Billiot

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