SIU President Michael Sacco says current events and history both strongly reinforce the need for a viable U.S. Merchant Marine.
Although our nation is trying to wind down military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone who keeps up with the news can clearly see that the United States cannot afford to be complacent about our security.
Whether you’re watching TV or listening to the radio, turning the pages of a newspaper or magazine, clicking links on a computer screen, or swiping on a smartphone or tablet, stories from around the globe – including Syria, Israel, and Ukraine – offer daily reminders of why we must maintain strong defense capabilities.
One of the best parts about speaking up for the SIU and the U.S. Merchant Marine as a whole is that we’re a proven, dependable component of America’s national security. Our members are patriots. Our members deliver the goods.
In modern times, we’ve transported well over 90 percent of the cargoes needed by our troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. We delivered humanitarian aid when natural disasters struck in Haiti and Japan and here at home in New York, New Jersey and New Orleans.
The SIU has supported our troops in every single conflict since our founding in 1938. We were part of the incredible, historic sealift effort that helped decide World War II. We were there again for Korea and Vietnam, for the first Persian Gulf War and for other lesser-known, but still important missions.
And the U.S. Merchant Marine altogether, as many of you know, has served our country literally since America’s earliest days. The official flag of the U.S. Merchant Marine includes the date 1775.
America still needs trained citizen mariners, ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. We need new ships, built by American workers, to handle our Defense needs. We need upgraded port infrastructure to accommodate those vessels and the expected surge in international trade. Those are just some of the reasons why we need to fully maintain important programs like Food for Peace, the Maritime Security Program, the Jones Act, and agencies such as the Export-Import Bank.
There may be a tendency at times to think that as a nation we can relax, but America cannot afford to do so. We also can’t afford to continue neglecting – and in some cases, attacking – our own maritime industry. Mariners can’t be trained overnight. Ships can’t be built overnight. With enough cutbacks we’ll reach a point when we’re no longer a maritime nation, and that’s an unacceptable future for the greatest nation in the world.
Register and Vote
One of the most important ways Seafarers help make the case for maintaining a strong American-flag fleet is through your consistently outstanding work in all segments of the industry. A couple of recent highprofile examples are featured in this edition of the LOG: the Cape Ray’s disposal of Syrian chemicals, and the USNS Montford Point’s participation in a big, multinational maritime exercise focused on military support. (The USNS Bob Hope did outstanding work, too, in helping ready the Montford Point for the exercise.)
Seafarers have another important duty in just a few months that’s also vital for our union and our industry: voting for pro-maritime candidates on Election Day. Notice I didn’t say any particular party; I said pro-maritime candidates. Make sure you’re registered and please get out to the polls on November 4, or make arrangements to vote absentee if you’ll be at sea. If you can donate some time for grassroots support, please do so. If you’re unsure if your voter registration is current, don’t wait until the last minute to find out. Check with your local election board or registrar online or in person, or start at the website www.usa.gov.
Information about SIU-backed candidates is available at the union halls, in the LOG and on our website and social media pages. Check with your port agent if you need more details.
One way or another, every single program that helps keep our industry afloat depends on political support. That’s why we back candidates at every level of government – regardless of party – who support the U.S. Merchant Marine.