NY Port Council Honorees Stress Jobs, Infrastructure

December 2010

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The three honorees at this year’s Maritime Port Council of Greater New York/New Jersey and Vicinity annual dinner-dance all emphasized the need for a strong national infrastructure program that would create jobs and rebuild America.


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Great Lakes Group President and CEO Ronald Rasmus and Congressman Donald Payne (D-N.J.) were recognized Oct. 30 in New York City for their support of working people throughout their careers. One highlight of their respective presentations was all three either hold or have held a union card.


In presenting the former president of the Maritime Trades Department-affiliated United Mine Workers of America to the audience, SIU and MTD President Michael Sacco declared Trumka is “old school in the best sense of the term. He is a true leader who has dedicated his life to the labor movement.”


Trumka received the 31st Annual Paul Hall Award of Merit, which is named in memory of the late SIU and MTD president.


“To say that Paul Hall was a great man is an understatement,” Trumka stated. “I am proud to be honored in the name of Paul Hall.”


The AFL-CIO president called both of his fellow honorees “economic patriots. We have to get America to stand on its feet together. We need new ships built in the United States. We need infrastructure of a scale not imagined in 70 years. New York and New Jersey have to be world-class ports. We need to export products, not jobs!”


In conclusion, Trumka added, “There is nothing we can’t do. We are union and we are proud!”


Rasmus received the 21st Annual Herb Brand Memorial Man of the Year Award from SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez (who is also an MTD board member) and from SIU Vice President Great Lakes Tom Orzechowski, a member of the Michigan Maritime Trades Port Council. The pair pointed out that Rasmus has been a fixture in the U.S.-flag maritime industry for almost 60 years, including 10 years at the Maritime Administration where he was instrumental in the passage of the 1970 Merchant Marine Act. They saluted Rasmus’ role as a leader in hiring youth and veterans for his Cleveland-based business.


Rasmus said he felt “at home with this port council,” as he was born in New York, graduated from SUNY-Maritime at Fort Schuyler and held a card with the Masters, Mates & Pilots. “I understand what it means to work for a living and to go to sea,” said Rasmus. “I have seen the industry from many sides. I know the need for workers to be paid a living wage with health and other benefits. I know the value of the men and women who sail the ships and tugs, load and unload the cargo.”


In reaffirming his support for the Jones Act, cargo preference and the Maritime S4ecurity Program, he added, “We need the maritime industry for jobs. It is much underrated and the new Congress has to be educated. I want see the American flag continue to sail on the high seas.”


New York/New Jersey PMC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Peter Busacca introduced Congressman Payne as “exactly what one looks for in a leader. He is a true friend of labor.”


The 12-term legislator (who would win re-election three days after the port council event) was named the PMC’s Government Man of the Year. A member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Payne stated, “I have a lot of respect for men and women who work.” He recalled his years at the Port of Newark, where he was a member of ILA Local 1233 and where his father and grandfather worked.


“I try to explain to younger members how, as a stevedore, we lifted wood with hooks. They just look at me,” he said to laughter. “We have to have opportunities for young people to work. I know the hard work people put in and that is why I’m 100 percent with Labor.”


Port Council President and SIU Vice President Atlantic Coast Joseph Soresi opened the evening’s ceremonies by thanking all those who attended as well as those who worked behind the scenes to make the dinner a success. He reminded all that the PMC will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011.

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