The heads of nine maritime-oriented labor organizations, including SIU President Michael Sacco, recently fired off a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Armed Services committees to preserve the nation’s freight cabotage law (the Jones Act) as they crafted legislation to help American workers and businesses caught in the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter arrived on Capitol Hill on March 19 as foreign-flag interests were scheming new ways to cripple the 100-year-old law that states cargo moved from one domestic port to another must be carried aboard U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and U.S.-flagged vessels.
As hotel, casino, restaurant, retail, transportation and manufacturing workers were being laid off, some were calling for financial assistance to the foreign-flag cruise ship industry, which pays little to no federal taxes.
The letter reads: “As you may be aware, a number of groups and individuals are attempting to use the current coronavirus pandemic as a rationale to waive one or more of our nation’s maritime cabotage laws. We strongly oppose such efforts and ask your help to ensure that such harmful, unwarranted and unjustifiable waivers of the cabotage laws are not included in the various stimulus packages designed to help the American worker and American industries.
“At a time when American workers and their families are facing economic hardship, the public health crisis should not be exploited to the benefit of foreign-flagged industries that do not employ American workers, avoid paying U.S. taxes, pay substandard wages to their foreign employees and want to use these hard times to break into our nation’s vital industries,” the letter continued. “We oppose any efforts to waive the Jones Act that would undermine the wellbeing of American mariners and the domestic maritime workforce. When this crisis is over, irresponsibly weakening the fundamental laws governing the U.S. maritime industry would only contribute to the growing loss of American jobs to foreign interests.
“We thank you for your consistent support for the American maritime worker and appreciate your efforts to protect American maritime jobs,” the letter concludes.
It was signed by Sacco; MEBA President Marshall Ainley; SUP President Dave Connolly; AMO President Paul Doell; Maritime Trades Department Executive Secretary- Treasurer Daniel Duncan; MM&P President Don Marcus; MFOW President Anthony Poplawski; IBU of the Pacific President Marina Secchitano; and Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis.