In late August, I had the bittersweet duty of presiding over the elections of Liz Shuler as the new president of the AFL-CIO, and Fred Redmond as the new secretary-treasurer. As you undoubtedly know, the proceedings were necessary because of the unexpected passing of my longtime friend AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka earlier that month.
If you missed the last issue of the LOG, I encourage you to pick it up or view it online. Our tributes to Rich are worth your time. He was a true friend of our union, a dedicated leader, and someone I’m grateful to have known.
Liz has giant shoes to fill but is up to the task. She’s a lifelong trade unionist and a longtime labor leader, and while her style is different than Rich’s, she is no less effective and every bit as committed. The SIU has worked with her for many years; I couldn’t be more confident in her. Likewise, while I haven’t worked as closely with Fred, everything I know about him is positive and encouraging. His acceptance speech in particular was powerfully inspirational, and clearly reflects his passion for the job.
Both Liz and Fred have hit the ground running, in particular with their efforts to promote the PRO Act (which Congress may rename in Rich Trumka’s memory) and separate legislation aimed at protecting voting rights. They have the SIU’s full support, and I look forward to continuing our work together.
As of this writing around Labor Day, more and more businesses – along with the Defense Department – are requiring COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. I think this was inevitable, and it bodes well for our country.
Our deep-sea mariners are required to be vaccinated as of October 1, and we have implemented the same rules for the employees at the hiring halls, at union headquarters and at our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland. It’s time.
Many of the discussions between people who favor vaccines and those who oppose them can be frustrating. For the most part, that’s because those same individuals aren’t getting their news from the same sources.
To those who remain hesitant, I understand concerns about longer- term side effects and whether or not the vaccines were “rushed.” But it’s important to remember that scientists have worked on coronavirus vaccines for decades. Think of it this way: If a brand new make and model of automobile rolled off the line in 2022, no mechanic ever would have previously worked on that specific make and model. But mechanics have worked on cars for a century.
Remember also that millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected (the vaccine trials started more than a year ago). No “non-live” vaccine has ever been shown to cause side effects years later. The COVID-19 vaccine is non-live.
The mandates signify another big step toward finally putting this pandemic behind us. If you’re not precluded from taking the shot for medical or religious reasons, please get it done. Your families and your shipmates will appreciate it, and it’ll give you peace of mind along with tangible, proven protection from COVID-19.