MTD Speakers Draw Blueprint for Revitalization

 

April 2013

 

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Despite facing significant challenges, both the maritime industry and the union movement are quite capable of revitalization, according to representatives of the administration, the U.S. military, business, government and organized labor.

 

Guest speakers from each of those sectors addressed the Maritime Trades Department (MTD), AFL-CIO executive board Feb. 21-22 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. They were candid in assessing obstacles faced by labor and industry, but also were adamant that solidarity and hard work will lead to success.

 

SIU President Michael Sacco, who also serves as MTD president, chaired the meeting. The MTD is a constitutional department of the AFL-CIO consisting of 23 affiliated unions representing 5 million members. The MTD also includes 21 port maritime councils.

 

In opening the session, Sacco recalled that union members played an indispensable role in helping re-elect a pro-worker administration last November.

 

“We showed once again that grassroots political action is the greatest weapon we’ve got,” he told the board and 200 or so guests. “That’s been true for as long as the labor movement has been in existence, and there is no doubt that unions made the difference on November 6. We helped win the White House; we helped build on a pro-worker majority in the Senate; and we helped secure many other victories, including the defeat of California’s anti-worker Proposition 32.”

 

He also touched on this year’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed a drop in overall union membership.

 

“Those numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Sacco stated. “Our numbers are down because of state-level attacks on workers’ rights in the public sector and also because the economy is still bad, so people are out of work. But the report also showed that membership grew in California and some other states, and it also showed once again that union members earn more money and have better benefits, on average, compared to non-union workers….

 

“We’re in a battle in the labor movement, but we’ve never been afraid of a fight,” he continued. “And we’re going to win the fight against so-called right-to-work (for less) laws. We’re going to mobilize like we did last year as we restore and protect public-sector rights. We’re going to bring back fairness in union organizing campaigns, so the deck isn’t stacked against people who want to exercise their legal right to form or join a union. We know it’s not easy and we know it’s a long road. But we’re still a force, as we proved on Election Day, and I’m optimistic about our future.”

 

In order of appearance, the following guest speakers addressed the board on Feb. 21: Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D); Steve Bertelli, secretary-treasurer of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers; Donald Dame, vice president of human resources, General Dynamics NASSCO; Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, U.S. Coast Guard assistant commandant for prevention policy; Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, U.S. Military Sealift Command; and Steve Cotton, acting general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

 

The following day, the board heard from (also in order) Matthew Cox, president and CEO of Seafarers-contracted Matson Navigation; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; United Mine Workers Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Kane; Fred Myers, executive director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance; Michael Stotz, president and managing director of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation; and Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris.

 

The board also approved policy statements highlighting its beliefs, goals and strategies. Related content is available on the MTD website, maritimetrades.org

 

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