James "Big Jim" Healy modernises the WWF, rising in 1937 to be its general secretary. He is the first editor of the WWF's journal, the Maritime Worker. He joins the Communist Party and is a committed internationalist, campaigning in support of waterside workers' boycotts of Japan and a boycott of Dutch ships from 1945-1949 as a way to bolster the Indonesian independence movement.
E.V. Eliot becomes SUA national secretary, leading the union for almost four decades, instilling the culture of rank-and-file involvement and embracing the vision that while seamen had "to take advantage of technological developments", at the same time, "men are more important than machines and new ships." He also takes the union into many national and international campaigns, including advocating for Aboriginal rights, opposing apartheid in South Africa, opposing the Vietnam War, and participating in the nuclear disarmament movement.
The gang system replaces the "bull" system, a revolutionary step forward. The "bull" system ensured that the largest men (the bulls) were chosen first for work, whilst other workers often missedout. Waterfront workers would, from that moment on and to this day, be picked up on the basis of rotation and equity (through rostered groups), rather than having to get work based on the whim of foremen or company preferences.
In November 1938, Port Kembla wharfies refuse to load pig iron on to the Dalfram, a boat bound for Japan. It is a courageous action, joining worldwide work stoppages to stop the flow ofiron and other war supplies to Japan in the years leading up to World War II. Wharfies fear that the pig iron will end up in bombs dropped on Australia, as well as instruments of war against China and other nations. By threating to bring in scab labour, Attorney General R. G. Menzies earns the historic label, "Pig Iron Bob". Ultimately, the Dalfram is loaded but future pig iron shipments cease from the Port.