Since our next edition will be published right around Election Day, I’ll begin this month’s message with one more reminder to make sure you’re registered to vote, and then go with families and friends to the polls on November 6. If you’re not sure which candidates the union is supporting, check with your port agent.
Throughout my years with our union, I have consistently seen surprised reactions from new members (and even some who’d already been with us for a while) when they learn about the gigantic impact that politics has on their jobs. The short version is that if maritime unions, vessel operators, coalitions and other organizations from our industry were not politically active, there wouldn’t be a U.S. Merchant Marine. That’s why we’re on the front lines practically every day, fighting to protect the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, cargo preference laws and anything else that boosts the U.S.-flag fleet and American crews.
That’s also why I talk with Seafarers all the time about grassroots political action, and why we devote so much coverage (in print and online) to politics. It’s why we support pro-maritime candidates at every level of government, regardless of party. Our involvement is a matter of survival, but a strong American-flag fleet – and reliable, well-trained, U.S. citizen crews – are equally vital to national, economic and homeland security.
The stakes are just as high when it comes to workers’ rights and freedom of association. It’s no secret that unions have been under attack for decades, and those legislative and judicial assaults are only intensifying. But the labor movement not only is fighting back, we are winning some key victories, starting with the Teachers’ protests in the spring. Unions led the way in defeating so-called right-to-work provisions in Missouri, and we also successfully challenged anti-worker executive orders that would harm federal employees (including members of the SIU Government Services Division). Additionally, non-partisan polling shows that the public’s opinion of unions is at a modern high point. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the people 35 and under who were polled expressed their support for unions, according to Gallup.
Put all of that together and it’s easy to see why we must vote for pro-maritime, pro-labor candidates this year. At stake are all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 positions in the Senate and 36 governorships, along with state-level and local offices.
So get out there and vote, and if your port agent asks for help with a campaign or with getting people to the polls, please make every effort to volunteer your time.
Last but not least, I thank every Seafarer who already contributes to the union’s voluntary political action fund, SPAD. If you’re not on board with SPAD, the time to sign up is now. It’s definitely not the only tool in our political arsenal, but it’s an important one.
Jones Act Facts
Like our fellow citizens all across the country, I was cringing and praying for the best when Hurricane Florence devastated parts of the East Coast in mid-September. You know it’s bad when the highway signs all the way up here around D.C. are warning you not to attempt any travel to the Carolinas.
Ahead of the storm, SIU members did a fantastic job crewing up ships and moving them out of harm’s way. The activations required a lot of extra work in our manpower office and at the hiring halls, and I’m proud of the way you all rose to the occasion.
Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of Florence, I thought I was in some kind of movie where I woke up one morning and I’d somehow gone back in time a year. That’s because I started reading new articles slamming the Jones Act for allegedly impeding the recovery from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. (Those pieces were trying to compare the federal responses to Florence and Maria.)
We’ve covered this ad nauseum, but if you’re new to the union or the industry, don’t fall for the lies being resurrected by Jones Act critics. The facts are that Jones Act carriers led the way in the recovery in Puerto Rico, and the law greatly benefits that territory. And, as many of you know, American crews on Jones Act vessels still are bringing the needed supplies to rebuild the commonwealth. If you want to get up to speed on the Jones Act and Puerto Rico, visit the excellent website americanmaritimepartnership.com (the SIU is a member of the coalition that runs the site).
As always, we have a lot of work ahead, well beyond Election Day. And as always, we’re up to those tasks.