Union and non-union mariners, shipowners, dredgers, schools, barge operators, pilots, suppliers and other stakeholders within the U.S.-flag maritime industry – large and small – recently joined together to send a letter to President Donald Trump indicating their vehement opposition to waiving the Jones Act, the nation’s freight cabotage law.
The letter was sent to the White House on April 2, one day before the president met with executives from oil and petroleum companies who publicly expressed their desire to waive the 100-year-old law. SIU President Michael Sacco was among the letter’s nearly 250 signers. According to numerous sources, including ones from the meeting, the waiver request didn’t happen.
“Waiving the Jones Act means outsourcing American maritime jobs to foreign shipping companies that do not pay U.S. taxes,” the letter reads. “Many of the foreign vessels would have been made in China and are operated by foreign crews who do not pay U.S. taxes and cannot be counted on to go into harm’s way for America’s interests.”
The letter further notes, “The American domestic maritime industry produces 650,000 jobs nationwide that have been designated by the Department of Homeland Security as part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce.”
Referring to the current coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn it has caused, the letter continues, “A Jones Act waiver in these circumstances – replacing American mariners and American ships with foreign mariners and foreign ships in our home waters – is unnecessary and contrary to our collective need to come together as a nation to fight this virus.”
The SIU has long fought for the Jones Act, which continues to receive bipartisan support on Capitol Hill despite continuous efforts by outside forces to cripple the law. More than 90 countries have some type of cabotage law on their books.