The labor movement’s victory last month in Missouri against the state’s right-to-work (for less) law is a triumph for all working families, not just for unions. We dive into the details elsewhere in this edition, but the most important takeaway is that American workers still have a voice, and we still have clout when we join together.
Leading up to the statewide vote on August 7, union members, officials and staff (including Seafarers) led a grassroots effort to educate fellow citizens about the ugly truth behind so-called right-to-work (RTW) provisions. For starters, the name is intentionally misleading. No one, after all, could possibly be opposed to the literal right to work.
But we know that’s not even remotely what RTW is about. It’s actually about driving down wages, weakening workplace protections, and giving an unhealthy amount of power to management. It’s about trying to divide working women and men who’ve come together to form or join a union.
Fortunately, the people of Missouri saw through the big lie of RTW and overturned it in a landslide. This didn’t happen by accident – our movement worked for the win.
We’ve got no shortage of other battles ahead, but our decisive victory in the Show Me State demonstrates that reports of labor’s demise have indeed been greatly exaggerated.
Be sure to read this month’s article about the SIU’s newest class of recertified bosuns. And, if you know someone who’s considering joining our union, or just wants to know what we’re all about, give them a copy of that article or send them the link.
The Seafarers who complete recertification aren’t the only members who know us extremely well, but they’re among the most familiar with how we operate. I am always energized when I hear class after class describe how the SIU and our affiliated school gave them a career opportunity, enabled them to make a good living and perhaps raise a family, and do a job they enjoy. Many members have talked about how they were able to put kids through college thanks to their maritime career, which is no small financial feat nowadays.
Not every individual story is identical, of course, but there are usually common threads. In many cases, including with the new class of bosuns, those stories involve multi-generation SIU families. There’s no greater compliment to our organization and our way of life than for a parent to encourage a son or daughter to join up. And you have my word that we will continue doing everything possible to earn that confidence and trust.
Register and Vote
As mentioned above, when working families join together for grassroots activism, we get things done. And on that note, you know it’s an election year when I’m constantly tossing out reminders to make sure you’re registered, and to either head to the polls on November 6 or vote absentee if you’ll be on a ship at that time.
Brothers and sisters, I cannot over-emphasize that our union does not care about political party! We care about the maritime industry and about workers’ rights. And we will work with anyone who supports the U.S. Merchant Marine and the American labor movement, regardless of whether they’re a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent.
Check with your port agent if you’re not sure where the union stands on a particular candidate or issue. But meanwhile, the first step is to make sure you’re registered. It’s really easy to do online – visit vote.org or usa. gov/register-to-vote to get started.
Our industry’s survival depends on political support. The best way forward – so that American-flag shipping doesn’t merely survive, but grows – is to elect people at every level of government who agree that the U.S. Merchant Marine is vital to national, economic and homeland security.