America’s domestic maritime industry received a boost Aug. 24 when delegates to the Alaska State AFL-CIO convention in Fairbanks unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Jones Act.
The SIU submitted the resolution backing the nation’s freight cabotage law, which requires that cargo moving between U.S. ports be carried on vessels that are flagged, built, crewed and owned American. SIU Vice President West Coast Nick Marrone and SIU Port Agent Tracey Mayhew attended the convention.
In adopting the resolution, the Alaska AFL-CIO said it will defend the Jones Act against attempts to repeal or infringe upon the law in any way, including attempts by politicians to grant exemptions to the act.
“The Jones Act is the lifeblood of the American maritime industry and a vital tool in protecting the nation’s economic and national security,” the resolution began. “For Alaskans it represents national ‘local hire’ law that regional maritime employers and unions have recognized as a critical pathway for Alaskans to find worthy employment. For nearly two decades, our state has been the beneficiary of distinct workforce initiatives, including youth, displaced fishermen, shipyard, Native, and veteran training and placement programs, to assure maritime employment in domestic waters and in the U.S.-flag fleet on the high seas is available to all Alaskans.”
Those initiatives have included an avenue for Alaskans to the apprentice program at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Maryland. Registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, the apprentice program helps provide crews for several SIU-contracted companies whose vessels call on Alaskan ports, including Horizon Lines, TOTE Services, Seabulk, and Alaska Tanker Company.
The resolution continued, “As highlighted in a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Alaska ranks third in the nation in maritime jobs per capita. The study showed that Alaska’s maritime industry contributes more than $1 billion to the state’s economy every year and sustains $344 million in wages. Alaska’s shipyard industry also plays an important role in the state’s economy by providing more than $108 million in annual economic impact, sustaining more than 1,100 associated jobs, and supporting $63.9 million in worker income in Alaska.”
The Alaska AFL-CIO’s public support of the Jones Act comes at a critical time. On August 22, James “Duke” Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor of Hawaii, announced he would be seeking the support of Alaskan officials, as well as officials from Guam and Puerto Rico, in urging Congress to grant Jones Act exemptions to those states and territories. Aiona is specifically targeting the provision requiring that ships moving goods between U.S. ports be American-made.
Meanwhile, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate for governor, said he has supported the Jones Act because it helps protect American jobs and preserve national security by ensuring the U.S. has a capable domestic shipping fleet.
The importance of preserving the Jones Act is summarized at the conclusion of the resolution: “Time and time again the U.S. government has called on the nation’s merchant mariners to support their country in times of war or crisis and those mariners have answered that call without fail. Not having such a cadre of well-trained, loyal U.S. mariners would be dangerous and potentially disastrous in times of crisis.”