Great Work all Around
Congratulations are in order for several recent accomplishments by Seafarers, union officials and staff.
Most recently, everyone stepped up during a no-notice turbo activation starting in mid-July. While the timing proved challenging, our rank-and-file members, manpower office and personnel in the hiring halls once again delivered. Your collective efforts – virtually around the clock – were outstanding and aren’t taken for granted.
SIU members also were involved in three recent rescues, thereby upholding the finest traditions of the Brotherhood of the Sea. Those stories are reported in this edition and I encourage everyone to read them. These are more examples of jobs well done by Seafarers, and they also underscore the ongoing importance of safety training.
Last but definitely not least, I believe our new standard contracts are a source of pride. I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s nearly impossible to please everyone, but just think about what we achieved with these agreements. We did not lose a single job. We secured significant wage increases while either maintaining or bettering various benefits. We got a firm commitment from the operators to provide shipboard connectivity. And we did all of that at a time when our employers’ costs have increased because of the pandemic.
Our benefit plans are in great shape. Our officials and staff are dedicated and they believe in what they’re doing. Our rank-and-file members are second-to-none, and so is our affiliated school. Put that all together and I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
Jones Act Support
Our coverage of the recently concluded AFL-CIO convention included a component that shouldn’t be overlooked. Specifically, the delegates approved a resolution in support of the Jones Act – a law that has protected U.S. national, economic and homeland security for more than a century.
I am aware that most Seafarers understand the Jones Act. We also have new people regularly entering our industry, so, for those who are unfamiliar, the Jones Act is a section of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act. It simply states that any cargo moved from one American port to another American port must be carried aboard a U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and U.S.-flagged vessel.
The Jones Act helps maintain approximately 650,000 American jobs found across every state and territory. It contributes more than $1 billion each year to our nation’s economy. (For any readers with a background in the building trades, it is the maritime equivalent of Davis-Bacon.) In addition, the Jones Act fleet helps maintain a pool of well-trained, reliable U.S. citizen mariners available to sail aboard U.S.-flag military support vessels in times of crisis.
Even though this law has enjoyed consistent bipartisan backing, it regularly comes under attack from people and organizations who either don’t know any better or who have ulterior motives. That’s why having the AFLCIO stand with us in support of the Jones Act is so important. The federation’s backing means that, when needed, we can speak with 12.5 million voices who recognize that the Jones Act is a solid provider of dependable American jobs.
Every United States president has backed it, and President Biden reinforced his longtime support his first week in office. High-ranking U.S. military officers also endorse the law, but we still must educate newcomers in Congress and elsewhere in government about its importance.
I recently heard a speech from a member of the Federal Maritime Commission that included this (paraphrased) line: Weakening or eliminating the Jones Act would be like our country handing over Nebraska to a foreign country. Obviously, we’d never do such a thing – and the same inherent logic applies to upholding a law that is more important than ever to the United States.
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