John M. Bowers, 88, who spent a lifetime working on behalf of unionized dockworkers through the International Longshoremen's Association, died on Sunday at his home on Long Island. Funeral arrangements are pending.
'The ILA family and the entire labor movement today has lost one of its most outstanding and important figures in John Bowers,' said Harold Daggett, who was recently elected as ILA president, in a statement. 'John Bowers helped shape this ILA into one of the most successful unions.'
Richard P. Hughes Jr., who replaced Bowers as president in 2007 and was recently elected president emeritus, said, 'I have lost my friend, my mentor and my sympathies are extended the Bowers family. His contributions to our industry and the worldwide labor movement were vast and his memory will endure.'
Bowers was elected as the seventh international president in the ILA's 114-year history in July 1987, after having previously served as ILA executive vice president for 24 years. The ILA, first organized along the Great Lakes region in 1892, today represents workers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada. The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots; the United Marine Division Tugboat Workers; and Supreme Court Officers' Association are all affiliated with the ILA.
Bowers also held elected positions as a vice president and executive board member of the AFL-CIO. He also was president of the ILA's Atlantic Coast District for 20 years; and was vice president on the Boards of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department and Maritime Trades Department.
Until his death, he continued to hold elective office as president of ILA Local 824, his home local on Manhattan's West Side.
Bowers served as the union's chief negotiator in wages scale meetings with shipping employers, and is credited for bringing stability and growth to the industry for past two decades. He was the architect of the six-year Master Contract covering ILA longshore workers from Maine to Texas, which went into effect in 2004 and was later extended two years through 2012. The contract brought wage increases and protection of health benefits to tens of thousands of ILA members and their families.
Throughout his career, Bowers was honored by numerous maritime and labor organizations and charities for his work. Bowers was also a decorated U.S. Army veteran, serving in World War II as a radio operator in the Fourth Armored Division in Europe.
A native of Manhattan, Bowers is survived by his wife, Marcy, their two children John and Christine, and one granddaughter. Bower's son serves as the ILA's legislative and government affairs director and is a vice president on the ILA's Executive Council.