MTD Speakers Credit Maritime Labor

April 2010

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An impressive array of guest speakers at the most recent Maritime Trades Department (MTD) executive board meeting praised the U.S. Merchant Marine for its dependability and said America simply cannot afford to do without a strong U.S.-flag fleet.

A number of those speakers, including the respective leaders of the U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Military Sealift Command, pointed to Operation Unified Response in Haiti as yet another prime example of how civilian mariners and the industry as a whole always answers our nation’s call.

Representatives from the military, the Obama administration, labor and business addressed the board Feb. 25-26 in Orlando, Fla. Their insights and support helped MTD officials hone strategies designed to boost not only maritime workers but America’s working families in general.

SIU President Michael Sacco also serves as president of the MTD, which is a constitutionally mandated department of the AFL-CIO. The MTD consists of 23 international unions and 21 port maritime councils in the United States and Canada representing 5.5 million working men and women.

In his opening remarks, Sacco said that while organized labor undoubtedly feels some frustration about the economy and on issues including health care and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), neither the MTD nor its individual affiliates or port maritime councils will abandon efforts to advocate for working families.

“There is nothing in front of us that we can’t overcome,” he told the audience. “We are still in a position where we have a fighting chance to stand up for our members and for all working families. We are still in a position where we have a pro-labor White House and Congress. And we’re smart enough and experienced enough to know that we simply have no choice but to stay in the fight.”

In order of appearance, the following guest speakers addressed the board Feb. 25: U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, commander of MSC; Eric Smith, vice president and chief commercial officer of OSG America; Stephen Cotton, International Transport Workers’ Federation maritime coordinator; Frank Larkin, communications representative from the International Association of Machinists; and Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris.

A day later, the following individuals spoke to the board: U.S. Air Force General Duncan McNabb, commander of TRANSCOM; U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brian Salerno, the agency’s assistant commandant for marine safety, security and stewardship; Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Richard Lidinsky; U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda; and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler.

As the meeting concluded, on behalf of the MTD and its port councils and affiliate unions, President Sacco and other officials presented a check for the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center’s Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers’ Campaign. Altogether, the MTD and its affiliates donated more than $82,000, including contributions from SIU members.


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