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Interviewee: Jim Dwyer

Role: Lumper

Date of Interview: 9/25/04

Collection: Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: New Bedford lumper Jim Dwyer talks about the changes he has seen in his 50+ years on the waterfront and the challenges of the current 24:7 on call system.

Transcript: The auction would start at 7 or 7:20 and the end of the auction, we’d go down, take the scalloper out, we’d be done by say10 o’clock in the morning. Alongside us there’d be a dragger. We’d get off the scalloper, we’d jump right onto the dragger. And perhaps you could get another dragger after that; there was so much work in those days. We would have 1 million pounds of fish channel through the New Bedford Public Auction. A million pounds per day. Everyone was home by 6 o’clock. Now today we’re on call 24/7 and a big day is 250,000.

The work is very inconsistent.  Whereas your not getting more people into the business because there’s no guarantee anymore.  No guarantee.

See, when the restrictions came down in 1994, during that time I had about 130 rank and file membership. I’m down to 25 right now, active; 12. When I say 25, the other, the other twelve men they’re either firemen or policemen; or other jobs like mail carrier which works well for them because that’s not their livelihood. But the other 12 that are established, they can still make a good living at it. But as far as bringin’ someone in and makin’ a career, I think it’s history.

To me my job is a challenge every day. I always get to that point where I’ll have a guy from offshore call me and say, “Jimmy, I’m comin’ in at 2 o’clock in the mornin’.” Ok, I set that up and I have another guy calling and sayin’ he’s comin’ in. And we get back to back with maybe 5-6 boats and I’m saying, “Where am I going to get the manpower?” And I don’t know, I put the pieces together, in a puzzle and all of a sudden I gotta take the pieces out, I gotta shift around. And I’ll shift the guys around. I’ll say, well we’ll have to double up. If it calls for 4 men, I’ll put 2 guys on a job, take the other 2 and separate ‘em. And it seems to work out. So far, I haven’t told one boat… I’m not saying it can’t happen… so far, I haven’t told one boat we can’t take his product out.

To read Jim's full transcript, click here.