The international maritime labor movement is mourning the death of Rene Lioenije, the last president of the National Maritime Union and a retired vice president of the Seafarers International Union. He was 89.
A native of the Netherlands, Lioeanjie moved to the United States in 1945 after having served aboard Dutch-flag vessels. He joined the National Maritime Union. Working in the deck department, he attained the rank of bosun before coming ashore for the union as an official in 1955.
Working his way up the ranks, he served in a variety of positions until being elected NMU president in 1997. He was well known throughout the international maritime union community through his work organizing flag-of-convenience vessels. His efforts in that area began after he was appointed organizer for the International Maritime Workers Union, which was formed by the NMU and SIU to improve working conditions in the global maritime industry.
He served as NMU regional director of Latin America and the Caribbean, where he was active in organizing federal employees in the Panama Canal Zone. He was the union’s secretary-treasurer prior to taking over its leadership.
As NMU president, he helped engineer something few in the industry ever thought would happen: a merger between the SIU and NMU, whose rivalry mirrored that of the AFL and CIO. “This was an historic achievement, as was his work organizing civilian mariners in the international maritime industry,” said MTD President Michael Sacco. “He will be missed.”