Anyone who attended the most recent meeting of the Maritime Trades Department Executive Board must have come away encouraged and energized. As reported in detail throughout this edition of the LOG, we heard from representatives of the administration, the military, the labor movement and Congress. Collectively, their remarks underscored support for the U.S. Merchant Marine, workplace safety and workers’ rights as well as the critical importance of grassroots political action.
As an Air Force veteran and president of the MTD, I also appreciated speeches and discussions at the meetings centered on how to help our men and women from the armed forces find good jobs once they finish their service. The AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council is doing solid, meaningful work in this effort (the MTD is a charter member of the council), but it’s not a small task.
On that note, I extend my thanks and appreciation to President Trump for signing an executive order designed to help veterans transition into civilian maritime careers (see Page 6). Our military leaders have been sounding the alarm about a manpower shortage in our industry that threatens sustained sealift capability. The executive order – something the SIU has backed for a while – can only help ease that shortage. Credit and thanks also go to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby, Deputy Maritime Administrator Richard Balzano and Dr. Peter Navarro, director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. Each of them backed the order and helped advance it to the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, what would one of these monthly columns be without an update on the Jones Act? For those of you reading the print edition, be sure to check out the article on this page about a new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers on America’s freight cabotage law.
The research found that the Jones Act now supports almost 650,000 American jobs while contributing $154 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Keep that in mind as the misguided attacks against this law continue.
While the study focused on jobs and economic impacts, the Jones Act is even more important than those eye-popping numbers suggest. It helps sustain our pool of dedicated, reliable, well-trained, U.S.- citizen mariners. It keeps our country’s shipbuilding capacity afloat. It helps safeguard our coasts and inland waterways. That last point shouldn’t be overlooked. Michael Hebert from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has stated, “There’s no way that we could enforce our national security laws without the Jones Act.”
Despite all of those facts, our industry remains vigilant in defending the Jones Act, which has served our nation well for nearly a century. There are free-traders and foreign-flag interests that simply don’t care about the law’s value, and they’re out to weaken American security while eliminating U.S. jobs.
We won’t let it happen, but our success depends on a combination of sustained political action and continuing to do reliable work every day aboard Jones Act vessels. Concerning the former point, be sure to read this month’s article about Congressmen Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Brian Mast (R-Florida) at the MTD, and see what they said about electing people who’ll listen to us and support us. Both congressmen also reminded us that we need to educate all elected officials about the maritime industry. (See our Sail-In coverage on Pages 4-5.)
Brothers and sisters, I remain optimistic about the future of our union and our industry. As long as we’re willing to stand up for the U.S. Merchant Marine and put in the work, we’ll succeed.