Grassroots Action and More New Ships


October 2015


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This month’s message has to begin with a very sincere word of thanks to SIU members, retirees and their families in Puerto Rico for stepping up to protect the Jones Act. As reported elsewhere in this edition of the LOG, and as we’ve shared on our social media pages, the SIU membership in Puerto Rico has really answered the call as we fight to protect not only our own jobs but also those of many others in our industry.


Grassroots action remains one of the labor movement’s most effective tools. Seafarers in Puerto Rico recognize that fact, and I thank each and every one of you for your efforts. I’m proud of the way you’ve pulled together.


Fortunately, we are far from alone in defending the nation’s freight cabotage law. Labor and management are working together with allies in government to stand up for this vital regulation. We’re confident we’ll win, but we also know better than to take anything for granted.


Current attacks on the Jones Act as it specifically applies to Puerto Rico are just the latest set of lies aimed at giving away our jobs to foreigners, damaging national security and eroding our shipbuilding capability. But we know the ropes in this fight, and we won’t slip up.


Meanwhile, “ironic” isn’t a strong enough word to describe the Jones Act battle in Puerto Rico in contrast to our front-page stories this month about new tonnage. While enemies of American-flag shipping claim the law harms Puerto Rico, U.S. shipyards are building state-of-the-art vessels that will serve the territory and the rest of the country for decades to come – sailing in the Jones Act trade. As mentioned in an earlier column, it’s plainly obvious that those ships wouldn’t have been built here without the strong, smart protections of the Jones Act, which has served our nation well since its enactment in 1920.


I’ve been involved in maritime labor a long time, to the point where I sometimes have to remind myself that what is second nature to many of us is brand new to people just entering our industry. For any newcomers who may not be familiar with it, the Jones Act requires that cargo moving between domestic ports be carried on vessels that are crewed, built, owned and flagged American. Many if not most other industrialized nations have similar laws.


This is not a subsidy but rather sound policy, which is why the Jones Act has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for nearly a century. It helps sustain almost a half-million jobs in the U.S. both on ships and in related shore-side positions. It is vital to maintaining American shipbuilding capacity. And it contributes literally billions of dollars to our economy every year. In fact, cabotage laws were among the first passed by the original Congress.


But it also safeguards the last untapped market from foreign-flag shipping, and that’s why it’s constantly under attack. Cabotage laws are being attacked elsewhere, too, including in Canada and Brazil, Norway and even China.


The bottom line is the Jones Act is good for Puerto Rico and for the rest of America. We know that and we’ll continue making sure that politicians from every party – and every region of the country – know it, too.


Seafarers Give Back

I also want to salute our brothers and sisters in the Pacific Northwest who recently participated in the annual community service project Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful. Giving back is nothing new for SIU members, but it’s still a source of pride – and it also shows the real faces of the American labor movement.


Union thugs? Please. Our members are generous and caring, whether painting a home in Tacoma, clearing debris for storm victims in Saipan, donating toys for military families in Florida, or paying for pizza and ice cream at an orphanage in South Korea.


Well done, brothers and sisters.


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