The following news item has been posted by the SIU-affiliated Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO. It can also be viewed on their website.
Maritime Labor United in Fight to Protect Mariners and Industry During Pandemic
As maritime union officials across the country continue to work hard to keep mariners employed and safe, others in the nation’s capital are informing Congressional leadership what is needed to protect this workforce in a future COVID-19 stimulus package.
The MTD, maritime unions and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) sent a joint letter to Senate and House leaders outlining short term and long term ideas to address the economic viability for the U.S.-flag maritime industry while protecting the men and women who crew these vessels.
The unions called upon Congress to:
1) suspend the vessel operating days requirement for the payment of the Maritime Security Program stipend and provide additional emergency payment to the operators to cover the costs of maintaining the vessel in a state of readiness and keeping the crew employed while the vessel is laid up;
2) increase U.S.-flag cargo preference requirements to 100 percent for all government generated cargoes;
3) provide COVID-19 testing kits and other protective equipment for mariners aboard U.S.-flag vessels;
4) extend expiring Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) in the same manner that other mariner documents and certifications have been extended;
5) exempt mariners from the individual state travel restrictions and quarantine requirements so they can reach their vessels without interruption and delay;
6) end the Military Sealift Command policy that only precludes civil service mariners from leaving and returning to the vessel but allows other personnel to do so;
7) provide sufficient funds to support domestic ferry operations and to make clear such funds may be used to cover operating and operating-related expenses;
8) allow all non-profit maritime union vocational training facilities to be eligible to apply for assistance under the recently enacted paycheck protection program; and
9) reject all attempts by foreign shipping interests to secure waivers of the Jones Act for cargo, passenger and dredging operations.
Signing on to the statement besides the MTD and the TTD were the presidents of the Seafarers International Union; the Masters, Mates and Pilots; the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association; the American Maritime Officers; the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific; and the Marine Firemen’s Union.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Congress is not expected to return to Washington until early May. However, legislators and their staff have been looking into additional measures to assist American citizens and businesses cope during the crisis.
While most of the nation’s attention to the industry has focused on the efforts of the USNS Comfort in New York City and the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, American merchant mariners continue working aboard U.S.-flag ships around the country and the world to deliver needed goods and supplies.
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