Positive Signs in Washington

 

May 2014

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco notes the recent expressions of support from legislators

 

The recent outpouring of bipartisan support for our industry by members of Congress and the administration is great news for the SIU and all of U.S.-flag maritime.

 

When U.S. senators, congressional representatives and a cabinet secretary go out of their ways to speak up for the U.S. Merchant Marine, it means we’re doing something right. It also reinforces my optimism for our union – I know we’ll have a bright future as long as we keep working to make it happen.

 

In case you missed it, from late March to early April there were several instances where legislators from both sides of the aisle offered detailed statements and remarks backing the Jones Act along with other specific components of our industry. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx did the same. Highlights of those comments appear elsewhere in this edition of the LOG, and I encourage all of our members to read them. They’re posted in more detail elsewhere on our website, too.

 

As Seafarers know, without political support, our industry wouldn’t survive. The laws and programs that keep us afloat – primarily the Jones Act, cargo preference (including Food for Peace), and the Maritime Security Program – clearly depend on continued backing in the nation’s capital.

 

That’s why we relocated the union’s headquarters from New York to near Washington back in 1982. That’s why we constantly stress the importance of SPAD, our union’s voluntary political action fund. That’s why we mobilize with grassroots support for pro-maritime political candidates, no matter the party (at every level of government). And that’s why we take our message to Capitol Hill practically every day.

 

We’re obviously not alone in promoting the industry. The sustainment and growth of U.S. crews, American shipbuilding and the U.S.-flag fleet requires ongoing cooperation from every segment. That includes labor, management, government and the military. Over the years, the SIU has done our part to foster that cooperation, and I’m proud of those efforts. We’re on the same page more often than not.

 

I am also particularly encouraged by this recent wave of support because the speeches and press releases zeroed in on exactly what our industry brings to the table: American jobs, national security, and economic security. These are not opinions – they are facts, backed up by research and by practical experience in all segments of maritime.

 

Enemies of the U.S. Merchant Marine try to blame us for just about everything from bad weather to bubblegum on the sidewalk. The legislators who are speaking up for us are the ones truly telling it like it is. Just taking one example, the Jones Act helps keep our country secure in so many ways. It helps sustain our nation’s shipbuilding capability. It helps maintain a pool of well-trained, loyal, U.S. citizen mariners who are available to sail aboard military support ships in times of war or emergency. Overall, it contributes billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy while maintaining nearly half a million American jobs.

 

As the legislators put it, the Jones Act is a jobs program that protects our country. It should be hailed as a public policy success.

 

I think the same is true of the MSP and cargo preference. They are proven winners, just like the Jones Act – and just like the men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine, who have supported this country from the beginning.

 

Our struggle never ends, but it’s always good to see that our work is appreciated and our value is understood. With allies like the ones recently speaking out for our industry, and with the continued support from and excellent work by our SIU rank-and-file membership, I know we will remain on course to succeed.

 

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