It didn’t take long.
Even before Hurricane Fiona had cleared the Caribbean Basin, opponents of the Jones Act thought the time was right to attack the nation’s freight cabotage law.
However, the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils show once more that we can and will fight off these attacks while aiding and serving our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico.
Hours after the then-category 1 storm swept across the island, knocking out power and causing extensive flooding, MTD and affiliate officials were working with the AFL-CIO to coordinate immediate relief efforts.
The Seafarers Union announced union halls in Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale and Houston would accept donations to be loaded into containers supplied by Jones Act carriers. Those US-flag vessels, crewed by MTD affiliates SIU and MEBA, were ready to sail to Puerto Rico to bring badly needed supplies. The IBEW started sending technicians and gear to restore power.
On the island, the Puerto Rico Ports Council already was in touch with members of the MTD-affiliated Longshoremen, Teachers, Machinists, AFGE, AFSCME and others, including the Teamsters, to establish a distribution network to move the goods from the docks to stricken communities, as had been done after the 2017 hurricanes and 2020 earthquakes.
According to the American Maritime Partnership in a September 23 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, 2000 containers were positioned in the port of San Juan prior to the storm to provide supplies. When all the island’s ports reopened following the hurricane, US-flag vessels resumed operations to their dedicated US-Puerto Rico terminals, with six Jones Act ships either already offloaded or preparing to dock by the end of that day.
(The American Maritime Partnership – also known as AMP – is a coalition of US-flag owners and operators, shipboard and shoreside maritime workers, shipbuilders, repair yards, manufacturers, vendors and contractors. Several MTD affiliates belong to AMP.)
Back in Washington, DC, eight members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Mayorkas on September 22 calling for a one-year waiver of the Jones Act. They said such a waiver “will allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants” among other things.
AMP pointed out to the secretary what Jones Act proponents (and facts) have stated for years, “It is also important to note that Puerto Rico imports virtually all of its refined petroleum products – gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, kerosene – from non-US sources.” In other words, the Jones Act doesn’t affect such deliveries at all.
AMP went on to say, “US domestic vessel operators are dedicated to serving the people of Puerto Rico, and did so consistently following Hurricane Maria as well. [The Federal Emergency Management Agency] called Jones Act deliveries in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria ‘the largest sea-bridge operation of federal disaster aid in FEMA history.’”
For those wishing to make donations, here is a list of items and locations provided by the AFL-CIO:
Here are the most urgently needed Items, NOT AVAILABLE ON THE ISLAND:
*All items should be new and in the original packaging
• Inflatable mattresses
• Linens (bed sheets)
• Toilet paper
• Paper towel
• Solar lanterns
• All batteries, but especially “D” size batteries
• Solar or battery fans – small
• Gasoline containers
• Insect repellant
• Portable power generators
• Propane tanks
• Canvas and other union convention bags for distributing items Adult Items:
• Medical alcohol
• Hand sanitizer
• First aid kits
• Baby formula
• Child safe insect repellentCleaning Supplies:
• Cleaning kits (flooding)
• Spray pumps
Ports for donations of supplies from the mainland:
All items should be new and in the original packaging, and may be shipped or delivered to one of the following locations, being operated by members of the Seafarers International Union:
625 N York Street
Houston TX 77003
5100 Belfort Road
Jacksonville FL 32256
2604 S 4th Street
Philadelphia PA 19148
1221 S Andrews Avenue
Ft Lauderdale FL 33316
Please make checks payable to Union Community Fund
Note in the memo line Puerto Rico relief efforts
815 Black Lives Matter Plz NW, Washington, DC 20005
NOTE: These contributions will be distributed to additional relief efforts appropriately.