SIU President Michael Sacco writes about the importance of grassroots political action
You know it’s election season when you can’t escape from the political ads, whether they’re on television, radio, online or in print. It’s only July as of this writing and, at least here around the nation’s capital, the ads are everywhere.
Political forecasters say billions of dollars will be spent on the White House election alone. You can bet that very few if any races for the Senate or House of Representatives or state governorships will be inexpensive, either.
The effects of money on elections are nothing new, but we in the labor movement got a stark reminder during the recent recall election in Wisconsin. We fought well and made it competitive at the ballot box despite being outspent by a wide margin. Analysts disagreed about whether the recall was more of a referendum on those types of elections rather than the specific office-holder, but the anti-worker money (tens of millions of dollars) that flowed to the governor didn’t require painstaking study. It came from anti-union, anti-worker business interests and anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it made a difference.
So where does that leave us with Election Day on the horizon? For starters, even though we already know we’ll be outspent, the SIU and our allies in the American maritime industry will continue financial support of those candidates and office-holders who support the U.S. Merchant Marine. With that in mind, your continued support of SPAD, the union’s voluntary political action fund, is more vital than ever. Our old salts have heard this line before, but for those of you who are newer members, be assured that while contributing to a candidate doesn’t assure we’ll get everything we want, it normally will at least allow us to voice our side. And on the other hand, if you don’t contribute, you all but guarantee no voice at all.
Fortunately, we still have another asset that cannot be measured on bank statements. Our ability to generate grassroots support for candidates and issues is something our enemies simply cannot match. And that’s why we all must be activists. That means registering to vote and then following through on Election Day. This includes the members of your family who are eligible. It means waving signs, taking part in precinct walks, crewing phone banks and helping get out the vote.
Historically, the SIU has always had an excellent amount of grassroots activism from rank-and-file members. We can’t afford to let up now. Our industry is under attack from all sides, largely due to budget slashers and the economy. Election-year politics affect us, too.
So stay in touch with your port agents. If you’re asked to help out, please do so. For those of you interested in doing even more, get in touch with your area labor federation or state AFL-CIO. We have information on the back page of this issue of the LOG to help you get started.
Our industry’s future is at stake on November 6. Don’t sit this one out.
In many places, givebacks and reductions are what pass for contract negotiations these days, but not in the SIU. On the heels of the standard contract ratifications, members have approved several more outstanding agreements, some of which are reported in this edition and others of which we’ll be reporting soon.
Congratulations to our contracts department and everyone else who’s been involved in negotiations, on both sides of the table. You’ve all done a remarkable job securing agreements that benefit Seafarers and our companies. We are proving once again that collective bargaining, done firmly but respectfully, is good for workers and good for business.