Standing up for Maritime Jobs

 

April 2015

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco points out how the U.S. Export-Import Bank benefits America, and also touches on remarks by General Paul Selva.


Although much of our attention lately has been focused on standing up for the Jones Act, that’s not the only issue the SIU has been tackling.

 

Like the Jones Act (a key maritime law that protects domestic shipping), the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is an important source of American maritime jobs and related shore-side employment. Also like the Jones Act, Ex-Im is a sensible, longstanding program that nevertheless is under attack.

 

The battle over whether to renew Ex-Im’s charter (a temporary extension runs out in June) has made for some odd alliances, both in Congress and elsewhere. For instance, when the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (both Ex-Im supporters) agree on something, it’s noteworthy.

 

Personally, not much surprises me anymore when it comes to politics, but Ex-Im opponents leave me scratching my head. For those unfamiliar with it, Ex-Im makes loans to foreign borrowers to purchase American-made goods. The loan repayments and some fees account for the bank’s revenue. It doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. It has been doing this to the benefit of American workers and businesses since 1934.

 

The program’s significance for our industry is that cargoes generated by Ex-Im funding must be transported aboard U.S.-flag vessels. In that light, the program is important not only to U.S. economic security but also national security, because it helps sustain the U.S. Merchant Marine and American-flag vessels.

 

According to a new report from the Ex-Im Coalition, mainly composed of manufacturers and exporters, Ex-Im earned a profit last year and sent $675 million to the U.S. Treasury. That report also pointed out that in the last 20 years, Ex-Im has generated $7 billion that went to reducing our national deficit.

 

In a separate report, the Export-Import Bank itself recently noted that in 2014, the bank helped sustain 164,000 American jobs while approximately 90 percent of its transactions directly supported U.S. small businesses. It also led to $27.5 billion in exports, again at no cost to American taxpayers.

 

Extending the charter seems like a no-brainer, but opponents somehow see it as a handout. I have no problem with honest disagreement but, like I said, I just don’t see the logic in trying to kill a program that not only creates jobs and funds itself, but also makes money for the U.S. taxpayer. We’ll continue pushing for a new, long-term charter with appropriate funding. Stay tuned.

 

Inspiring Speech

I would be remiss in not saying a few words about the recent remarks by Gen. Paul Selva at the annual meeting of the Maritime Trades Department’s executive board. People were still buzzing about his speech weeks later, and meaning no slight whatsoever to any of our other speakers this year or in prior years, that just doesn’t happen very often.

 

There’s an article about General Selva’s address on our website, and I strongly encourage all SIU members to read it. We all know these are very challenging times for our industry, but when the commanding officer of the U.S. Transportation Command has got your back, it gives you confidence for the future.

 

Besides his views on the specifics of the programs that keep our industry afloat, what stood out to me about General Selva’s speech is he sees that we genuinely respect and value our brothers and sisters in the armed forces. And he also knows we take our role as America’s fourth arm of defense very, very seriously.

 

With leaders like General Selva on our side, I like our chances as we continue fighting to revitalize this vital industry.

 

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