The 2019 recipient of the Paul Hall Award of Merit set the tone for annual Maritime Port Council of Greater New York/New Jersey and Vicinity’s dinner/dance when he proclaimed, “An attack on the Jones Act is an attack on your members and their families. So, as far as I’m concerned, an attack on the Jones Act is an attack on the BCTGM!”
David Durkee, the international president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union, showed the solidarity he said was so prevalent in the award’s namesake as well as in current SIU/MTD President Michael Sacco.
Durkee joined U.S. Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi (D-New York) and Russell Paret, president/CEO of Schuyler Line Navigation Company, in being recognized for their efforts on behalf of the U.S. Merchant Marine and all working people during the June 22 event in New York City.
Durkee said the late Paul Hall (who served as SIU and MTD President from 1957 to 1980) stood for “strong and principled leadership … creativity, innovation and breaking new ground to improve the lives and standard of living of his members and their families … unflinching courage … an unyielding commitment to the highest values and standards of trade unionism. He was about labor solidarity and always being there for fellow union members and he never forgot where he came from.”
He continued, “I did not know Paul Hall, but I do know Mike Sacco. Mike is someone for whom I have the greatest respect because he embodies those very same qualities as his predecessor, Paul Hall. Mike Sacco is a fighter who has never backed down or backed up when it comes to protecting and advancing the rights and well-being of his members and all working men and women in the maritime trades. When it comes to legislative and regulatory issues affecting workers in the maritime trades, there is nobody in Washington, D.C., who has more credibility and more respect than Mike Sacco.”
The BCTGM president updated the crowd of nearly 400 on his union’s battle with Mondelez/Nabisco to stop the outsourcing of union jobs to Mexico. He said the company is paying workers in Mexico as little as “97 cents an hour with no benefits” to bake such icons as Oreo and Chips Ahoy.
“The first labor organization to support our nationwide consumer boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico was the Maritime Trades Department,” Durkee noted. “Mike Sacco and the Maritime Trades Department are always there with fraternal support for another union when called upon. More often than not, they don’t wait to be asked for help. They reach out and say how can we help. That, brothers and sisters, is what solidarity is all about.”
In introducing Durkee, MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan referred to the Nabisco campaign by displaying a bag of Chips Ahoy and showing the audience where to look on the lower back of the packaging to see if the words “Made in Mexico” appear. “If ‘Made in Mexico’ is not printed, then they are high-quality union-made cookies,” Duncan said.
Suozzi received the Government Man of the Year Award for his years of fighting on behalf of working people in New York and Washington. He said the maritime industry is a model of labor-management cooperation that can serve as “the hope for America.”
Suozzi pointed out the nation’s economy “is leaving too many people behind” and also reiterated his vow to “fight for U.S.-flag ships any way I can.”
SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez introduced Suozzi by noting the congressman’s father was an immigrant who fought in World War II, became a justice of the New York Supreme Court and provided the values Suozzi still follows: “hard work, justice, (knowing) right and wrong, and looking out for others.”
Tellez said Suozzi is “an up-and-coming politician who is good for the country and good for our industry.”
Upon receiving the Herb Brand Award (named for a past Seafarers LOG editor and American maritime icon), Paret announced, “I appreciate all those working hard at sea tonight. I am grateful to have the best team in the world.”
Paret oversees U.S.-flag operations that include cargo preference and Maritime Security Program vessels.
“I am so lucky to love what I do. Shipping is a 24/7 industry and I thank everyone I depend on every day,” Paret stated. “We all play important roles – lawmakers, crew, maintenance, operations and crewing, and, of course, labor. Too many people don’t know about the U.S.-flag industry.
“We need a national maritime strategy,” he offered to loud applause. “To survive and thrive, we must be bold.”
Presenting the award to Paret was SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker. “His colors are red, white and blue. He is someone you can trust – a true patriot and a great American,” stated Tricker. “He treats mariners properly and with respect.”