Our union is off to a strong start this year, both at sea and ashore.
One of the most exciting developments for us is an upcoming move to a new union hall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We’re on pace to make that move this summer, and I know it’s something many Seafarers and their families are looking forward to.
Later in the year, we’re planning to open a new hall in Houston – another move that shows we’re heading in the right direction.
We’re also continuing with improvements at our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland. Most of that refurbishment was finished a year ago, but we’re continuing to upgrade the facilities at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, both inside the classrooms and outdoors on the main campus.
Shipping has been very good lately, with plenty of jobs on the board. I’ve said this periodically in recent years and it’s still true today: A Seafarer may not always get to choose the exact ship or run he or she wants, but any member who wants to work can find a job. As always, the more you upgrade, the more options you’ll have.
My confidence in our future is reinforced when I look at all the new tonnage entering the SIU-contracted fleet. This month alone, we’re reporting on three separate new-build programs that will help keep Seafarers employed.
This month’s LOG also features coverage of the recent meeting of the Maritime Trades Department executive board. I was especially glad that a number of rank-and-file SIU members were able to attend that meeting in San Diego, to see what it’s all about. And what it’s all about, brothers and sisters, is my favorite four-letter word: JOBS.
If you’ve never been to an MTD meeting or never really read our articles about those gatherings, I could understand if it all kind of looked the same. But those meetings are crucial for our union and for the others that make up the MTD. One of the consistent highlights is the supportive remarks made by guest speakers, and that was the case again last month. When you have a high-ranking military officer, congressmen, the president of the AFL-CIO and others vowing to support the U.S. Merchant Marine, it carries a lot of weight. It puts them on record and it lets us know we can count on them when we fight to protect the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, cargo preference and other laws and programs that boost our industry.
None of this happens by accident. Not the new halls, not the new ships, not the steady work or the school upgrades or the high-level support from the military and government. By no means am I saying the SIU should take all the credit, but we’ve pulled our weight and then some, and we’re able to do that because of effective leadership and because of your solid support of my administration. Our continuity is a huge strength, and so is the steady, reliable professionalism of SIU members in every segment of the industry. When I and the other union officials are pushing for Jones Act support, or helping secure new tonnage, or working on a new contract, we always point back to the same thing: you, the rank-and-file member. Your outstanding work is what gives confidence to the military officer, the ship operator, the congressman or senator who’s being asked to support cargo preference or some other pro-U.S.-flag program.
I’m excited and energized by our strong start in 2016, and I’m looking forward to our continued progress.
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