Maritime, Labor Communities Mourn Senator Lautenberg


July 2013


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Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a longtime supporter of maritime and the labor movement, died June 3 at age 89.


Lautenberg, who served as the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, was a leader on a variety of maritime issues, including the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, Coast Guard funding and shipping safety. He was also the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate.


“Senator Lautenberg will be greatly missed,” said SIU President Michael Sacco. “He was a dedicated public servant who fought to protect the country and keep Americans working. His support of the U.S. Merchant Marine was ironclad and he was a tireless defender of the nation’s mariners.”


Lautenberg’s strong support of maritime was made clear in his keynote address during the 2011 National Maritime Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C.


“I witnessed firsthand the difference the merchant marine makes. I have tremendous respect for our country’s mariners. The work that you do is vital,” Lautenberg said during his 2011 speech. “You are civilians who are patriots, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the heroic contributions of mariners. I salute the courage and service of those who fought on merchant ships and who contribute so much to our security and economy.”


Throughout his career, Lautenberg often used his position to promote maritime safety and training. He introduced legislation in 2009 that addressed the system of medical evaluations for U.S. mariners, backlogs in the documentation system and the role fatigue plays in maritime casualties.


Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 following a successful business career. While he retired from the Senate in 2000, he decided to run again in 2002 when the state’s other Senate seat became vacant. Throughout it all, Lautenberg was a committed supporter of the labor movement.


“He never forgot his working class roots as he became enormously wealthy as an entrepreneur,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Until his passing, he was committed to the fight for the empowerment of workers and for ensuring equal opportunity for everyone.”


Following his death, tributes celebrating Lautenberg’s service in the Senate came from all over. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised Lautenberg as a “strong advocate for the men and women of our armed forces and their military families,” while Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the nation lost a “true champion” with Lautenberg’s passing.


“Frank’s tireless advocacy for transportation safety saved many lives – he truly was the Safety Senator,” LaHood said.




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