The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Getting seafarers paid

How a 48-hour partnership resolved families' suffering

Imagine working on a job for four months without getting paid. You hear lots of promises but receive no money.

Meet the crew of Lady Anthula, a Malta-flagged cargo ship that tied up March 21 at Pier 84 South in Philadelphia. The ship's four holds were brimming with cocoa beans after a 14-day trip from the Ivory Coast.

After a back wages issue was resolved
After a back wages issue was resolved in March, ELCA chaplain William Rex (right), Capt. Renier Fabello Fabon (second from right) and crew members celebrate with delicacies donated by Filipino grocers Hyen and Rowena David of Bridgeport, Pa. Due to their responsibilities and port security, most of the crew didn't have shore leave.

Cocoa beans are a common cargo because of the port's proximity to chocolatiers in places like Hershey, Pa. While forklifts and cranes performed a complicated dance off-loading the beans, the busy crew was preoccupied with worry that their families in the Philippines lacked money to buy food.

That day, William Rex climbed Lady Anthula's gangway for what could be a routine visit, like hundreds he's made the past three years. The pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Ferndale, Pa., is also called by Seafarers & International House (SIH) in New York City to be a chaplain to seafarers at the Port of Philadelphia.

On a previous visit, Rex found that the Lady Anthula's crew hadn't been paid for several months. So in December 2011 he set in motion an advocacy plan to help the crew get back wages and appropriate pay.

Now history was repeating itself. "You can usually tell if something is amiss," he said. "The mood will be a little tense or crew members will say something to us."

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February issue


Embracing diversity