Our industry scored an important victory in late July, when United States Senators from both sides of the aisle stood up for the Jones Act. Specifically, they turned back two ill-conceived amendments in the Coast Guard Authorization Act that would have weakened America’s freight cabotage law.
The resounding, bipartisan votes in favor of fully maintaining the century-old law that remains vital to U.S. national, economic and homeland security must not be taken for granted. This is a constant battle, which is one reason why it’s also a regular topic of my columns.
In a case of coincidental timing, during that same stretch in July, the SIU’s most recent class of recertified bosuns made separate trips to SIU headquarters and then to the nation’s capital. They learned about the behind-the-scenes work our union constantly puts forth to protect SIU jobs and the industry as a whole. They also saw the results, in real time.
The following week, during their graduation speeches, the bosuns all mentioned how their eyes had been opened to the sheer, unrelenting grassroots effort it takes to promote and protect the U.S. Merchant Marine. While our industry does indeed enjoy strong support from many in the military, in the administration and in Congress, we also have enemies. Some are foreign-flag interests, others are merely misinformed, but all of them threaten American maritime.
The bosuns also, without exception, urged fellow members to donate to SPAD, our union’s voluntary political action fund. SPAD isn’t our only tool, but it’s important. We have a great rate of participation but there’s always room for improvement. If you’re already on board, I thank you. If you’re not, there’s never a bad time to join the battle. As the saying goes, the job you save may be your own.
Successfully defending the Jones Act wasn’t the only recent positive development. As reported in this edition of the LOG, our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, recently completed a massive upgrade of its engine-department training facilities. This should be a big boost for both entry-level students and upgraders. And, it’s consistent with the school’s mission of producing the world’s best-trained mariners.
We also joined with two of our contracted companies in celebrating new-tonnage additions, plus an anniversary. The Great Lakes Towing Company christened a new tug while commemorating 120 years of business, and NY Waterway christened a fully refurbished boat that has been added to its flourishing fleet of passenger ferries. Such growth is a credit not only to the companies but also to the reliable SIU manpower that keeps those vessels running smoothly.
I also call your attention to our yearly feature on Paint Tacoma, a very worthwhile project that the SIU has supported for many years. For as long as I can remember, SIU members often have had tough exteriors but hearts of gold. Our volunteers for Paint Tacoma symbolize the membership’s generosity quite well.
Brothers and sisters, I’m confident we’ll continue to have plenty of good news to report for many years to come. But, as with anything in life, nothing will be given to us. You have to continue with your outstanding professionalism aboard ship. The union must maintain our political activism as well as working closely with our contracted operators and all of the agencies that affect maritime. And our school must provide the best possible training for every student, whether an apprentice or an upgrader.
Our future is bright.