SIU President Michael Sacco says recent wins in Congress for the Jones Act and MSP underscore why the union remains politically active
Two recent victories for our industry in the U.S. House of Representatives firmly underscored why the SIU has always been politically active and must remain so. As reported in this edition, the House rejected an attack on the Jones Act that would have been part of a bill addressing Puerto Rico’s financial crisis and, separately, stood up for the Maritime Security Program (MSP) by rejecting an amendment intended to undermine it.
No one in our union needs any reminders about the importance of grassroots political action. It’s been part of our fabric since we were chartered in 1938. But if you’re new to the SIU, take note of those wins in the House. They don’t happen without strong support on Capitol Hill – and that support doesn’t materialize out of thin air. It takes constant work to educate people in Congress and in the administration. It takes solid working relationships both within our industry and with government officials at every level, from our members and their families helping back home to cultivating relationships once he or she comes to Washington. It takes get-out-the-vote campaigns.
Part of the equation also involves our union’s voluntary political action fund, SPAD. We have a great rate of participation and I’ve never taken it for granted. But if you haven’t signed up, now is the time to stop sitting on the sidelines. Your union needs your support. The U.S.-flag maritime industry needs your support. SPAD makes a difference.
Again for those of you who are new to the SIU, let me be clear about SPAD. It doesn’t guarantee we’ll always get what we want, and it’s certainly not a case of us trying to buy favors. But political campaigns cost money, and politicians ask us for donations all the time. It’s not a perfect system but it’s the system our country has at the moment. And if we don’t participate, you can forget any chance of having a voice. That’s just how it is.
We examine those requests with close scrutiny, and then we support the people we believe will support our industry, regardless of political party.
In the recent examples I just mentioned about the MSP and the Jones Act, as usual it was a collective effort from our industry that led to the victories. But the SIU definitely did our part, and we share in the credit. Plain and simple, we wouldn’t even be in the arena without SPAD. It’s not our only weapon but it’s a vital one. If you’re already donating, thank you and keep it up. If you’re not, check with your patrolman or port agent and get on board. Every dollar helps.
Speaking of politics, the SIU once again was part of the team at this year’s Sail-In in the nation’s capital. It’s only one day a year, but it’s an important opportunity for the American maritime industry to make introductions and also check in with good friends as we discuss the most critical issues we face. This year, those subjects included the MSP and the Jones Act, cargo preference and vessel discharge regulations that impede the operation of commercial ships.
The fact that our Sail-In groups almost always include representatives from labor and management properly reflects the cohesion that exists in our industry. As one group member put it, we go at each other hard when we’re at the bargaining table, but at the end of the day we’re all in this together.
It’s also noteworthy that we meet with many representatives on both sides of the aisle. Politics can be a complicated game, but for us it’s always been simple: We support those who support the U.S. Merchant Marine.
We had a lot of serious conversations at the Sail-In, because this isn’t an easy time for the U.S.-flag fleet. We have a lot of work to do in order to build it back up. But we’ve got a fighting chance to make it happen, as reflected in those Jones Act and MSP wins, and also as clearly shown in recent comments from top military leaders.
No one expects it to be easy. I know we will put in the work in order to win.