Some of the details were different, for precautionary reasons – but the enthusiastic fellowship and great food were familiar to those attending the annual pre-Thanksgiving feast at the hiring hall in Oakland, California.
The popular gathering skipped 2020 for safety reasons, but returned on Nov. 23, 2021 (in its usual slot, which is the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week).
Guest speakers included U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, John Garamendi, Jerry McNerney and Jim Panetta (all California Democrats). Other guests included military personnel; maritime union members, pensioners and officials; numerous building-trades union personnel; shipping company executives and staff; and others.
SIU Vice President Government Services Nicholas Celona, long the driving force behind the decades-old yearly event, said the mood was upbeat for the 2021 feast.
“We took many precautions, including serving the meals in individual containers instead of going with the usual buffet-style arrangement,” Celona said. “We made sure plenty of hand sanitizer was available and we asked that everyone bring their vaccination cards. We also spaced out the tables more than usual. People said they were glad to be back.”
With 120 people in attendance, the congressional representatives gave brief remarks mainly focusing on the holiday season, the infrastructure bill, and the importance of creating and maintaining good jobs in the U.S. They also emphasized the country’s ongoing need for American mariners and U.S.- flag ships.