SIU President Michael Sacco covers recent stories including the BLS report on union membership, and new tonnage entering the union-contracted fleet
This year’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on union membership nationwide hardly qualifies as good news, but it was encouraging to see many pundits and other knowledgeable sources quickly point out the ongoing importance of organized labor. We’ve got a sample of those reactions in a story on page 5 of this issue.
Overall, membership numbers dropped, largely because of state-level attacks on collective bargaining in the public sector and also because the economy still is struggling. But, some states bucked that trend, and the annual report also showed that union members once again enjoyed higher wages and better benefits, on average, compared to unrepresented workers.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but the need for strong unions in our great nation has never been more critical. The only way to revitalize the middle class is by ensuring employees have a voice in the workplace. A key part of maintaining good jobs here at home is treating workers with respect, expecting those working to deliver, and making sure they share in the rewards when business is good. That’s a basic standard we’ve followed with great success in the maritime industry. Sure, we’ve got our own challenges, but I’ve long believed that maritime is a model when it comes to labor-management cooperation, and that’s due in large part to the union representation enjoyed by American mariners. The same approach can (and does) work in other fields.
More broadly, there is no doubt that all workers, even non-union ones, benefit from the standards set by union contracts. That’s another key point that was brought to the forefront as people analyzed the BLS report.
We’re in a battle in the labor movement, and I think the extremist attacks on working families are appalling. From the big lie of so-called right-to-work (for less) laws to the attacks on public-sector rights and well beyond, nothing is sacred. Still, I’m optimistic about the future of unions and union members. We remain a force – we showed it beyond a doubt on Election Day – and we’ve weathered many storms throughout our long history. We’ll rebound from this one, too, through solidarity, smart planning and hard work. Our future depends on a robust union movement – and so does the American Dream.
New Tonnage, Other Gains
We’ve got plenty of good news to report this month, including Crowley’s newest Jones Act tanker, the Florida; the roll-out of our expanded Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan clinic system; the formation of the first-ever U.S. Congressional Maritime Caucus; plus improvements for our Government Services Division members. These developments don’t happen by accident, and they are more evidence of what we can accomplish by working cooperatively with management, government and our military while still standing up for our members’ rights.
Also featured this month is a recent safety training course completed by Seafarers from Alaska Tanker Company. The class took place at our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland: the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education. There’s no way to overstate the importance of the school to our union and to our contracted operators. We work in such a heavily regulated industry, and the potential liabilities are so high, no one can afford to be behind the times when it comes to proper training and preparation.
I’m proud to say Piney Point takes a back seat to no one when it comes to cutting-edge technology and training, and that’s why we continue to deliver well-qualified, reliable shipboard manpower for all types of vessels. I’d stack our members against any from around the world, and Piney Point plays a big part in all of our success.