Ongoing Relief Efforts
As our relief efforts for Puerto Rico continue, I thank every individual and every organization that has stepped up. While the earthquake-induced damage in the territory is extensive, so too are the collective responses of labor and management. We’re committed to helping, as much as possible for as long as needed.
Be sure to read our coverage in this edition, and for those of you who use social media, note that we’re regularly posting progress reports and other updates on Facebook and Twitter (and occasionally on our regular website).
One of the most uplifting aspects of the current outreach is that we all sprang into action – labor and management, together – without being asked. The Jones Act community saw a need and immediately rallied to help our brothers and sisters on the island.
Unfortunately, that need remains significant, mostly in the territory’s southern region. Homes, businesses, schools and roads were damaged or destroyed. There are no quick fixes, but we’re taking steps to bring as much relief (and restore as much functionality) as possible. Stay tuned.
While we in the labor movement aren’t kidding ourselves about the prospects of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 quickly advancing in the Senate, the House’s passage of this pro-worker bill is still quite noteworthy. It establishes an important building block and lets us see where legislators stand on labor law reform and workers’ rights.
The surest way to grow the middle class is through collective bargaining and union representation. Government data and other studies consistently show that union members earn more money and enjoy better benefits than their unrepresented counterparts. Union apprenticeships (many of which are done in partnership with employers) often provide a clear path to rewarding careers, too.
Management also benefits from strong unions. When workers have a voice on the job and are compensated fairly, they’re much more likely to be reliable and efficient and to stick around, thereby reducing turnover and its associated costs. Unions provide accountability on both sides as well.
By any reasonable measure, many of America’s labor laws are broken. More often than not, the deck is stacked against workers who seek to join or form a union – and there’s no recourse against employers who violate their employees’ rights in union organizing campaigns and elections.
The PRO Act is good for workers and good for America. The SIU stands behind it and will work to overcome any obstacles to it becoming law.
Gateway to Success
The union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (based in Piney Point, Maryland) remains an essential tool for Seafarers who want to continue advancing in their careers.
This fact was summed up quite well earlier this year by Seth Harris, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor and a onetime SIU field representative. As he noted in testimony before Congress, “SIU members do not have to guess which skills and credentials to pursue. They know exactly what skills and credentials they need to make themselves more valuable to their employers. Their union and the employers with which it works have solved this problem. SIU members also do not navigate career pathways on their own. They had clear and well-established career pathways even before the phrase ‘career pathways’ had been coined. Those career pathways have been married to a skills acquisition curriculum. As a result, SIU members know exactly how they can climb career ladders by acquiring well-defined competencies and credentials.”
That’s a terrific endorsement, and on that note I encourage all Seafarers to take advantage of the opportunities in Piney Point.