Unions, MTD Condemn MarAd Report

 

December 2011

 

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SIU, Others Cite ‘Gigantic Failure in Matsuda’s Leadership’

 

In early November, the SIU and three other maritime unions issued a joint statement harshly criticizing the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) for the agency’s recent acceptance of what the unions described as a severely flawed report.

 

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, quickly followed up with its own statement backing the unions.

 

The SIU was joined by the American Maritime Officers; International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots; and Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. Their joint statement began by pointing out that MarAd recently had released “a highly contentious study of American-flag shipping without any input whatsoever from maritime labor. This inexplicable decision guaranteed that the report would not contain the information that Congress and the Administration would need to develop and implement meaningful maritime policy that strengthens, not weakens, the U.S.-flag merchant marine, provides jobs for American, not foreign, maritime workers, and bolsters, not diminishes, the economic, military and homeland security of the United States. The administrator who approved the report, David Matsuda, should be held accountable.”

 

The unions pointed out that MarAd more than a year ago had been tasked by Congress with identifying ways to boost American-flag shipping (which is the agency’s federal mandate). “Instead, the agency accepted a report based on incomplete information whose main conclusion – that in the deep-sea commercial sector, it often costs more to use U.S.-flag ships – isn’t news to anyone,” the unions declared. “The fact that MarAd chose to exclude a significant segment of the maritime industry from this process, and accepted a report that includes possible cost-cutting suggestions that are completely contrary to the overall best interests of the United States represents a gigantic failure in Matsuda’s leadership and a missed opportunity on the part of the Maritime Administration.”

 

The joint statement continued, “How could the Maritime Administration sign off on a report that suggests consideration of weakening or eliminating the Jones Act, one of the bedrocks of our national and economic security? How could the agency not refuse the mere notion of turning America into a second register? (It should be noted that the carriers interviewed for the study soundly rejected lowering U.S.-citizen crewing requirements as well as the second-register idea.)

 

“We make no apologies whatsoever for the fact that our members make a living wage and receive health care and pension benefits. American mariners are second-to-none worldwide when it comes to being properly trained for their profession. Yet MarAd’s report points to these factors as some of the reasons why it costs more, on average, to ship American. MarAd should be ashamed of itself for entertaining a study that suggests that beating down American mariners to the level of Third-World labor and lowering their standard of living are good for our industry and good for our country. The findings of this report are an insult to the brave men and women who comprise the U.S. Merchant Marine, including those who sail in harm’s way to deliver vital materiel to our armed forces.”

 

Finally, the unions noted that they “stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration to make our industry stronger, larger and more competitive. The Maritime Administration had the opportunity to start this process in an all-inclusive, productive way. It is not only unfortunate but a clear dereliction of duty that they chose not to and instead spent time, energy and resources on a report that serves no useful, constructive purpose.”

 

The MTD called the report “flawed and inadequate…. We find it quite odd that MarAd would release a flawed report suggesting a second register while at the same time the United States is seriously considering the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Those conducting the research failed to contact a single maritime union, relying solely on shipping company representatives for their information about mariner contracts and benefits. The MTD welcomes the rejection of such ridiculous notions by U.S.-flag carriers within the study.”

 

The MTD statement further said that by accepting and publicizing the report, the agency “shows it is out of touch with its own mission statement and with the Obama Administration’s charge to maintain and create good American jobs. The MTD finds it hard to believe that the agency of the federal government mandated to promote U.S.-flag shipping and its mariners can be so disconnected as to not know that its own sponsored report fails to meet its original objectives and then proves it does not even understand its own roles and missions.”

 

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