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Biden to Jones Act Foes: “Not on My Watch!”

U.S. President Joe Biden talks to Lasse Johannes Petterson, CEO of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock (GLDD) Steinar Nerbovik, CEO of Philadelphia Shipyard, Inc. (PSI), and Metal Trades Department President James Hart during a tour of Philly Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 20, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Above image provided by Susan Walsh/Associated Press.

In a speech before hundreds of unionized Philly Shipyard workers on July 20, President Joe Biden reaffirmed his longstanding support for the Jones Act by declaring “Not on my watch!” to the idea that foreign-flag vessels would take jobs from American ships and mariners.

Biden was in Philadelphia for the steel cutting on the first of its kind, domestically built scour vessel, the Acadia, that will place rocks on the seabed to secure the base for offshore wind turbines. The president later signed a sheet of steel that will be used in the vessel.

“Some folks may not know, there was a law in 1920 called the Jones Act that was passed,” Biden told the shipyard workers, other union members (including MTD President David Heindel and Metal Trades Department President James Hart), Great Lakes Dredge and Dock (for whom the vessel is being built) executives and more. “It says ships travelling between U.S. ports have to be American-built, American-owned and have American crews.

“There are some who are content to rely on ships built overseas, without American crews to operate them,” Biden continued. “Again, not on my watch!

“We’re strengthening American shipbuilding, supporting good union jobs and bringing offshore wind supply chains back home.”

Heindel briefly met with Biden before his address.

“I thanked the president for his support of the Jones Act and the U.S. Merchant Marine,” Heindel noted. “I also thanked him for bringing good union jobs for the wind industry.”

Throughout his address, the president gave shout-outs to many MTD-affiliated unions. Among them were the Boilermakers, Electrical Workers, Seafarers and Steel Workers. He listed numerous locations across the country where workers are making the parts needed for the offshore windfarms.

Biden touted the tens of thousands of jobs created to address the nation’s infrastructure woes: “Good union jobs.”

He reminded the audience that the shipyard was down to “a handful of workers” a few years ago, but is looking to employ more than 1000 with the construction of the scour vessel and other U.S.-flag ships. Those workers are represented by the Philadelphia Metal Trades Council.

He thanked the union workers and government officials who made temporary repairs to a collapsed freeway bridge along Interstate 95 in Philadelphia in less than 2 weeks, pointing out American ingenuity accomplished a project many said could not happen.

Biden wrapped up with a line he has used throughout his presidency, “It is never a good bet to bet against America.”

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