The AFL-CIO Executive Council on March 15 unanimously adopted a statement opposing a proposed open register in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
SIU President Michael Sacco, the council’s longest- serving member, provided background on the situation to other board members.
In part, the statement reads, “American merchant mariners are the gold standard for the world in terms of safety and training. From iron ore for steel mills along the Great Lakes to food aid to hungry citizens in Africa, from materiel for American armed forces stationed around the world to vital household goods at domestic ports, they deliver.
“For generations, foreign interests and their allies have tried to find ways to circumvent the nation’s labor and tax laws to take good jobs away from hardworking Americans,” the statement continues. “The latest effort, announced last month, calls for the creation of a so-called open registry for the U.S. Virgin Islands. As outlined, this initiative would take cargo from U.S.-flag vessels, crewed by American citizens, and place it on vessels that do not use American crews, do not pay American taxes and do not meet American safety and labor standards. This attempt to create a flag of convenience using the U.S. Virgin Islands is wrong and harmful to American workers.”
The statement concludes, “The AFL-CIO joins with the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO; the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; and the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO in calling upon the Biden Administration, the Congress, the Department of Defense and the Maritime Administration to reject any effort that U.S. Virgin Islands-flag vessels be treated as if they are the same as U.S.-flag, U.S.- crewed for any purpose or for any program. At the same time, we reiterate our commitment to work with the Biden Administration and the Congress to achieve a more robust, commercially viable U.S.-flag, U.S.- crewed fleet that will continue to protect America’s economic, military and homeland security.”
Previously, a joint statement from shipboard maritime unions including the SIU pointed out, “The proposed U.S. Virgin Islands flag of convenience open registry will not benefit the United States nor America’s maritime industry, any more than any other second or open registry benefits a national flag country. In fact, the establishment and growth of second registries by other industrialized nations has done little more than decimate their national flag fleets to the point that they are no longer able to provide the requisite military security and logistical support to their flag nations.”