President's Column -- Register and Vote

Seafarers Log, October 2010

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Michael Sacco, PresidentWith Election Day just around the corner, once again I urge all Seafarers and their families to make sure you are registered and remember to vote. It is not too late for members and their families to meet with or write to candidates to remind them that they stand to represent merchant mariners. Tell your elected officials how important the U.S. Merchant Marine is to the economy and national security.


As always, your union is supporting pro-maritime, pro-worker candidates in the national, state and local elections, no matter the party. Once the elections end, we’ll make sure that whoever’s in office knows about American mariners and our industry. That type of outreach isn’t new, but it is vital.


More on ‘Made in America’
Last month, we reported on President Obama’s recent address to the AFL-CIO Executive Council, highlighted in part by his statement that the words “Made in America” will be crucial to our economic recovery.


Not long before that early August address, leaders in the House of Representatives announced their recommitment and recognition of the importance of manufacturing as the key to economic prosperity. Representatives including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also unveiled a “Make it in America” agenda that includes a number of legislative initiatives.


There’s no doubt that rebuilding our economy is a complex task. But part of the answer is simple, and that part involves buying American-made goods and services. Though I’m admittedly biased, I’d take it a step further and urge that we also “buy union.” But, in any case, buying American makes good common sense and good economic sense.


The legislative efforts in the House involve closing tax loopholes that encourage the export of American jobs, and offering tax credits to help small businesses hire more employees. They also include mandates for fair trade practices that emphasize workplace safety and decent treatment of employees in foreign lands.


Additionally, the administration already has taken some steps in the right direction. Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force has adopted a national manufacturing strategy, which has started producing results. President Obama wants to double U.S. exports in the next five years. As long as exports increase faster than imports, that’s a very worthwhile goal, especially if American mariners move these goods overseas.


This isn’t about protectionism or partisanship. It’s about creating incentives to invest in American manufacturing, rebuilding our industrial base and leveling the playing field so U.S. companies have a fair opportunity to compete in the global economy. The alternatives – collectively letting our manufacturing capabilities steadily erode – are unacceptable. Already, some are projecting that in 2011, America will lose our status as the world leader in factory production to China. That’s a headline we can stop from making it to press, but it will require not only a renewed focus on American manufacturing but effective follow-through.


New Tonnage
In this edition, we are reporting on new vessels in the deep-sea commercial trade, the Jones Act trade and the Government Services Division. Speaking of American manufacturing, two of those ships were built in union-contracted U.S. shipyards (NASSCO and Aker Philadelphia). That’s a capability we simply cannot afford to lose.


New tonnage benefits our nation in more ways than one. It helps prevent us from being held economic hostage by foreign countries. Often, it either directly supports our military (as will be the case with the new Government Services ship USNS Washington Chambers) or is available to do so in times of need. And of course, keeping Old Glory afloat helps maintain the manpower pool of well-trained, loyal, U.S.-citizen seafarers who serve as America’s fourth arm of defense.


These are stories of success and opportunity. They are part of the lifeblood of our union and our industry, and we will do everything possible to help ensure that there are many more to look forward to in the future.

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