As Port Maritime Councils and MTD affiliates contact their local U.S. Senators to urge them to vote against the McCain amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, other labor and maritime industry organizations are adding their voices to the battle.
On January 13, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the Keystone measure that – if passed – would repeal the domestic-build provision in the Jones Act. Since being enacted as part of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, the Jones Act has had longstanding strong bipartisan support at the White House and on Capitol Hill as well as from the military. The Jones Act calls for cargo moved between two domestic ports to be carried aboard U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned vessels.
Upon hearing of the amendment’s filing, MTD President Michael Sacco declared, “This amendment has no place in the Keystone bill or in Congress. It is just another attack on the Jones Act, one that could cripple the U.S.-flag maritime industry.”
Joining Sacco’s call to Capitol Hill from the labor side is Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO: “McCain’s latest amendment would threaten national security by opening U.S. waterways to foreign vessels, jeopardizing jobs of American maritime workers who build, repair and sail U.S.-flagged vessels.”
From the Great Lakes, Cleveland Port Maritime Council President John Baker added, “There is no reason to even consider this amendment. The vessels built in Great Lakes shipyards are so efficient that year in, year out they save their customers billions of dollars in freight costs compared to the land-based transportation modes.” Baker also serves as president of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (the largest labor/management coalition ever assembled to promote shipping on America’s Fourth Sea Coast), which proclaimed its support against the amendment.
In addition, the largest coalition of U.S.-flag maritime businesses, shipbuilders and labor – the American Maritime Partnership – stated through its president, Tom Allegretti: “The McCain amendment would gut the nation’s shipbuilding capacity, outsource U.S. Naval shipbuilding to foreign builders and cost hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs across the country. The shipbuilding requirement, which Senator McCain seeks to eliminate, is in place to ensure that the United States maintains the industrial capacity to build its own ships, so as to protect and defend the American homeland.”
The Navy League of the United States too is seeking the amendment’s defeat, noting in a press release that the Jones Act “is a critical component to the long-term sustainability of the U.S. fleet and the health of the U.S. shipbuilding industry. The loss of the American-build provisions in the Jones Act would have devastating ripple effects on all the sea services. Its immediate impact would be a reduction in the number of ships built in U.S. shipyards, which would result in a loss of jobs, a loss of industrial knowledge and skills, and a loss in America’s edge in shipbuilding quality and technology.”
The Navy League’s release quoted provisions within the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that asserted coastwise measures like Jones Act “’promote a strong domestic trade maritime industry, which supports the national security and economic vitality of the United States.’”
A recent study conducted for the U.S. Maritime Administration pointed out the economic importance of the domestic shipbuilding and repair industry to be annual employment of 400,000 workers, annual labor income of nearly $24 billion, and annual gross domestic product of $36 billion.
The full Senate is expected to continue debate on the Keystone bill through mid-January. The McCain amendment will be taken up prior to a final vote on the full Keystone legislation.