SIU President Michael Sacco covers several important, positive stories affecting SIU members
During a month that was loaded with positive, important stories, nothing tops the great news that Seafarers overwhelmingly have ratified the new standard freightship and tanker agreements. Voting was still taking place at press time, but enough “ayes” had been counted to ensure rank-and-file approval of the new five-year contracts.
These agreements are excellent for the membership and I think they’re positive for our operating companies, too. In addition to yearly wage increases and maintaining all benefits, the contracts include various improvements that promote safer, more efficient shipboard operations. It may sound like a cliché but I truly believe this is a win-win: good for the union, good for the companies.
I said many months ago, before negotiations started, that the SIU would be both aggressive and realistic in our approach, and that’s exactly what we did. And I commend everyone involved in the negotiations, on both sides of the table. Credit also goes to the membership – your input made a difference, and it very clearly is reflected in the agreements.
We have other reasons to feel good about the future, not the least of which is new tonnage entering the SIU fleet. As reported in this edition, our union recently welcomed a new heavy-lift ship for our deep-sea mariners, a new ATB that’s sailing on the Great Lakes, and a new T-AKE vessel that’ll operate in our Government Services Division. Also, the first in a fleet of joint high-speed vessels (abbreviated as JHSVs) recently completed sea trials; those vessels will mean new jobs both for our private-sector Seafarers and for our Government Services crews. And, a new tugboat is scheduled for its ceremonial launch late this month. There’s big news concerning new tonnage on the way, too, and I expect we’ll be announcing it soon.
On the legislative front, the SIU (and all of American maritime labor) worked very hard to help secure the mid-May Congressional renewal of the Export-Import Bank for three years. This is big news for the SIU because American-flag ships transport a significant amount of the cargo generated by Ex-Im financing.
It’s also worth noting that the bank, which does not take money from taxpayers, directly benefits small businesses and that its financing supports an estimated 290,000 American jobs, including many in the maritime industry. This is, in fact, a jobs program, and as I’ve said before, when labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce (another Ex-Im backer) are on the same side of any argument, you can bet it’s a slam dunk.
That program was one of many the SIU helped identify during this year’s “Sail-In” in the nation’s capital. Coinciding with this year’s event on May 9, which promoted a strong U.S. Merchant Marine, the Navy League of the United States issued a report citing our industry as crucial to America’s national and economic security. The very first sentence in the report says it all: “No industry has been more vital to the success of our country than America’s maritime industry.”
Last but not least, also last month, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) attached an amendment to the Defense of Defense authorization bill that would require the U.S. Maritime Administration to take additional steps to encourage the use of U.S. vessels in meeting national security needs, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) spearheaded a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to publicly recognize the importance of the Jones Act, the fundamental law of the American maritime industry. The letter was signed by a bipartisan contingent of 15 Members of Congress.
Like I said, it was a good month. And I guarantee our brothers and sisters throughout the SIU that we will continue working on your behalf to ensure continued progress and more gains throughout the months and years ahead.