In taking one last look back at 2018 before we dive into the New Year, our union has much to be proud of. We welcomed new ships into the SIU-contracted fleet. We secured new and improved benefits, along with industry-leading contracts. We opened a new hiring hall in Puerto Rico, and we also helped our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, remain on the cutting edge of maritime training.
We also did our part in the constant battle to maintain the laws and programs that keep the U.S. Merchant Marine afloat. These of course include the U.S. Maritime Security program, cargo preference laws, and the Jones Act. In 2018, I probably devoted more space to the Jones Act in my monthly LOG columns than any other topic, and that may be the case again this year as we continue standing up for an indispensable law.
Last year included a noteworthy political win in Missouri, where rank-and-file Seafarers helped defeat a so-called “right to work” provision that harmed working families. And of course, on Election Day, the SIU backed a large number of winning candidates at every level of government – as always, from both political parties – who will support our industry and our issues.
I prefer to spend time planning ahead for a bright future rather than reflecting on the past, but I also think it’s important not to take our success for granted. Year after year, we’re able to report on new jobs, good contracts, and an affiliated school that’s second to none. We’ve regularly upgraded the hiring halls, too. None of it happens by accident. Everyone shares in the credit: rank-and-file members, union and school staff, and members of my administration. We may not go undefeated, but we’ve got each other’s backs and we’re a winning team.
As we start a new calendar, I thank the membership for your support, and I guarantee you we won’t take any shortcuts in 2019 when it comes to protecting your jobs (or any shortcuts at all, period). That’s at the heart of everything we do as an organization. And it just so happens that SIU jobs support U.S. national, economic and homeland security. If we needed any more motivation to go to bat every day for the U.S. Merchant Marine, there it is.
For the labor movement, last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case can be crippling if we let it, but the early responses from union reps and members alike are encouraging. If you never read about the case in detail, the short version is that public-sector employees in departments that already enjoy union representation must now opt into the bargaining unit, rather than opt out.
But this is an opportunity for labor to return to our roots, to re-educate members and non-members alike about why unions are so vital, and about why everyone comes out ahead when workers truly have a voice. This will involve lots of work moving forward, but I know the movement is up to the task.
Last but not least – yes, I’m going to mention the Jones Act again. We’re up against a long-term, well-financed campaign that’s just the latest attack on domestic shipping and U.S. mariners. We’ll ask for your help in contacting your senators and representatives from time to time, and we’ll never make those requests lightly.
Where maritime labor has the advantage in this struggle is through grassroots efforts and our ability to put boots on the ground, so to speak. We’re going to be working with the port councils of the Maritime Trades Department on this front, too, and I’m confident about the results.