Well-Earned Win in Ohio


December 2011


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By SIU President Michael Sacco


Although Election Day 2011 was what’s known as an off-year election, it delivered a tremendously important victory not only for union members but also for America’s working families as a whole.


As reported in more detail elsewhere in this edition, Seafarers joined with fellow Ohio voters on November 8 to stand up for workers’ rights and convincingly overturned a vicious, anti-union law designed to eliminate collective bargaining for public-sector workers. In fact, plenty of people in Ohio and across the country – and not just from within the labor movement – realized that the state law (Senate Bill 5) was part of a larger plan to cripple unions. Those attacks won’t stop, but the Ohio vote proved once again that the middle class won’t roll over and let fanatical politicians make them suffer most of the consequences for a recession not created by workers or their unions.


I thought Vice President Joe Biden put it well during a post-Election Day rally in Ohio. He said that workers, via their rejection of SB5 (also known as Issue 2), “fired the first shot” not only for November 8, 2011 but for next year’s federal and state elections. “It’s not about Barack Obama. It’s not about Joe Biden. It’s about whether or not middle-class people will be put back in the saddle, because they’re the ones that make America move,” the vice president said.


He went on to say that the Ohio vote “was not just a fight about collective bargaining. It was about respecting teachers, cops on the beat who risk their lives, firefighters, and the extraordinary courage they show every day. This isn’t about labor; this is about giving the middle class a fighting chance.”


Finally, he warned that more anti-labor legislation can be expected, including bills targeting workplace safety regulations, prevailing wage laws, right-to-work (for less) and environmental measures.


If that’s not enough to keep our attention, nothing is!


While we have plenty of work ahead, a word of congratulations is in order to everyone who contributed to the win in Ohio. I’m proud to say the SIU did our part, as did our affiliated unions the United Industrial Workers and the Seafarers Entertainment and Allied Trades Union. We were joined by dozens of other AFL-CIO affiliates, Ohio’s state labor federation and central labor councils, and by personnel from the AFL-CIO itself – led by AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, who’s doing an excellent job during an extremely tough time for working families.


We all know we can never afford to rest on a victory. But Ohio was well-earned and worth savoring, just for a bit.


UN Outreach


As Seafarers know, the fight against piracy is a multi-national, multi-faceted effort. It’s an undertaking that includes everything from identifying and refining shipboard self-defense measures to tackling the political and economic problems that spurred piracy’s increase in the first place.


We don’t necessarily publicize all of our anti-piracy efforts, but I want to assure our members that those efforts never stop. We are constantly working with our contracted operators, other unions, our government and the international community – the latter primarily through the International Transport Workers’ Federation – to end this scourge. It’s a tall order, but it’s also vitally important.


Our recent work includes participation in a United Nations anti-piracy forum in New York as this edition went to press, and direct outreach to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Among other urgent recommendations, we continue pushing for flag states to take responsibility for their own ships, and for decisive action against the pirate supply chains and logistic bases.


We all recognize that piracy is a long-term problem, but that shouldn’t prevent the implementation of more aggressive counter-measures aside from just sailing with armed security teams. This is literally a matter of life and death, and nothing – nothing in this upcoming year and in the future – is more important than the safety of our crews.



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