As we close out another successful year for our union, I extend my sincere thanks to all Seafarers who stepped up to the plate and participated in grassroots political activities in 2018. It cannot be said too many times: Our industry’s survival depends on constant political involvement.
On that note, as of this writing shortly after Election Day, I’m pleased to report that our union’s voluntary political action fund (SPAD) enjoyed a winning percentage above 92 percent this year in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Without throwing too many statistics at you, SIU-backed candidates won 16 of 20 Senate races, and 133 of 141 in the House.
SPAD, as always, contributed to pro-maritime candidates from both parties. SPAD remains vital in helping us get our foot in the door to promote the U.S. Merchant Marine, but it’s not our only tool. I know from talking with members and our regional officials that Seafarers really went all-out this year in precinct walks, phone-banking, sign-waving and other grassroots activities. Again, your efforts don’t go unnoticed, and your volunteerism is second to none.
Be assured that by the time you read this article, we’ll already have a solid game plan in place to reinforce congressional support for maritime and to help educate newly elected representatives about our industry. Our outreach also goes well beyond the federal level – we’re active in state and local politics, too.
Finally, don’t forget to introduce yourselves to your local elected officials. Visit their offices, sign up for their email alerts, and let them know you’re a registered voter in their jurisdiction whose job depends on American- flag shipping. If there’s one thing I can tell you about politicians, it’s that they listen to constituents.
Big Fight Ahead
A massively funded anti-Jones Act campaign is getting started again, and it’ll have our attention for quite a long time. This won’t be an easy fight, and from time to time, your union will call on you for specific outreach to the administration and your previously mentioned senators and congressional reps.
The bottom line on our opposition is that they’re greedy. That’s why they want to get rid of a law that has protected U.S. national, economic and homeland security for nearly a century. That’s why they want to kill the nearly 500,000 American jobs that are tied to the Jones Act. Greed. They want cheap foreign labor to take over our coasts, Lakes and waterways, and they don’t give a damn about maintaining America’s seafaring and shipbuilding capacity, because that’s not how they make money.
I’m under no illusions about the magnitude of this battle, but we’re up to the task. Keep an eye on our usual channels for updates – our website, our social media pages, the LOG, and probably an occasional text message.
When you read about all of the new vessels being produced by domestic yards like union facilities NASSCO and Philly Shipyard (among others), you undoubtedly notice the changing technology featured on all of them, whether they’re tankers, ConRos or containerships. One point that shouldn’t be lost on us is that new technology means mariner training is more important than ever.
That’s where our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, comes in. The Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education is one of the greatest assets available to Seafarers. It’ll help you keep up with the times, earn new ratings and make more money. But you’ve got to take advantage of it. When you’re eligible, upgrade. It’ll be worth it.
However you observe the winter holidays, I wish you a safe, happy and healthy season. Whether you’re at sea or ashore, I hope you’ll find some time to relax, count your blessings and then gear up for the New Year.
See you in 2019, brothers and sisters.