Big Win, but Food for Peace Fight Continues

 

July 2013

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco weighs in on the battle to protect vital American jobs through the Food for Peace program.


The fight isn’t finished, but the SIU helped secure a significant victory for our membership and the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine in mid-June as the U.S. House of Representatives voted down an amendment that would have wiped out American jobs by essentially gutting the Food for Peace program as we know it.

 

Our opponents are gearing up for a likely second attempt to cripple Food for Peace (also known as Public Law/PL-480) at press time, but we will not let up, either.

 

Meanwhile, there are some important points to take from the 220-203 vote against the original amendment that was tacked on to a much larger agriculture bill which the House ultimately also rejected.

 

The main one is that our political activities, both as an individual union and in conjunction with our allies from throughout the industry, are as vital to our survival as new ships and proper training and ample cargo. That concept itself isn’t exactly breaking news, I know, but it is a timely and powerful illustration of why we’re active on Capitol Hill. This is why we support pro-maritime, pro-worker politicians no matter the party. This is why we promote SPAD and participate in the annual congressional Sail-In, among many other grassroots efforts. This is why we ask you to make sure you’re registered to vote, to meet with your elected officials and to help get out the vote.

 

Only 17 votes stood between maintaining tens of thousands of U.S. jobs related to PL-480 and potentially wiping them out so our government could make cash payments to foreign countries. Measured another way, the margin was even smaller: If nine votes had been reversed, the damaging amendment would have passed.

 

Those numbers show that we can’t afford to relax. It’s still mind-boggling to me that there are people in Washington who seem eager to wipe out such an effective, time-tested program that does so much good not only for Americans, but also for people around the world. But, that’s where we are, and that’s why we will work on this issue however long it takes to not only preserve the existing program but also restore the sneaky cuts that were made to it last year.

 

This is no time for gloating but I do want to sincerely thank our rank-and-file members for your letters and phone calls to Congress leading up that vote on the amendment. Politicians pay attention to their constituents, and whether you mailed a letter or sent an email or made a phone call urging them to keep Food for Peace intact, your voices made a difference. And this was no easy victory – we faced opposition from others in addition to the usual anti-worker suspects.

 

Even a few traditional supporters of maritime seemingly have been hoodwinked into thinking the program might be more effective by changing it to a cash scheme through which American taxpayer dollars are handed to foreign interests with no transparency or accountability. Where those specific individuals are concerned, I don’t doubt their intent, but I believe they’ve swallowed a fish story.

 

 

We will continue to post updates on this fight on our website and on our social-media pages. Meanwhile, I again thank our members for your support in this critical battle, and I urge you to remain ready to answer the call again. We’re fighting for our future and our jobs. That’s a fight I have no intention of losing.

 

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