With representatives from 16 different international unions present – including the Seafarers – the Hampton Roads (Virginia) Port Council kicked off Labor Day weekend on Aug. 31 with a lunchtime questionand- answer session featuring U.S Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia).
Iron Workers Local 79 hosted the meeting in Norfolk, Virginia.
The port council is part of the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department (MTD), to which the SIU is affiliated. SIU Port Agent Georg Kenny and Government Services Division Representative Sam Spain were among the attendees, as was MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan, who served as moderator.
The 90-minute gathering brought together elements from the Norfolk-area’s shipbuilding, ship repair and seafaring communities. The two elected officials dealt with a variety of questions ranging from port activities to finding new ways to spark apprenticeship programs.
Kaine and Scott both serve on their bodies’ main committees that oversee labor and workforce issues. Before taking questions, both spoke briefly about creating legislation that would allow federally funded Pell Grants to be used to cover the costs associated with apprenticeship training. (Currently, Pell Grants only help cover expenses associated with getting a college degree.) In addition, both spoke out strongly against President Trump’s announcement the day before to cancel a 2 percent pay raise for federal workers.
Kaine and Scott reiterated their longstanding support for the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program and cargo preference. Both noted the need for a strong domestic shipbuilding industry to maintain America’s military and commercial fleets.
The pair cited Norfolk’s efforts to become the largest port in terms of cargo along the U.S. Atlantic coast, stating they would do whatever is possible in Washington to help achieve this goal. However, both were unaware that the Norfolk/Tidewater/ Hampton Roads region is the only major U.S. port on the East Coast that does not have a seamen’s center for U.S. and foreign mariners whose ships dock at the facilities. Both agreed to work with local governmental and business officials to alleviate that concern.
SIU President Michael Sacco also serves as president of the MTD, which is a constitutionally mandated department of the AFL-CIO. The MTD features 23 affiliate unions (representing around five million members) and a network of 21 port maritime councils. Those port councils give the affiliates a mechanism to pool their resources on a wide range of issues and projects