The Maritime Trades Department’s stances on policy issues and other matters of the day are determined at our quadrennial conventions and annual executive board meetings. Convention delegates from our affiliates and port councils vote on and pass resolutions, whereas other statements are presented at executive board meetings.Texts for current resolutions and statements are available here, as are collected booklets of statements and resolutions from years previous.
Occasionally overlooked and sometimes misunderstood, cargo preference laws nevertheless remain indispensable for America’s maritime industry.
By extension, these laws also are crucial for U.S. national, economic and homeland security.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), cargo preference “is the general term used to describe U.S. laws, regulations and policies that require the use of U.S.-flag vessels in the movement of cargo that is owned, procured, furnished, or financed by the U.S. Government. It also includes cargo that is being shipped under an agreement of the U.S. Government, or as part of a Government program.”
Preference cargoes typically include military items, food aid, and shipments generated by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. There are corresponding percentage requirements that specify how much of the cargo must be moved on American bottoms, ranging anywhere from 50 to 100 percent.
Cargo amounts themselves vary from year to year. For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, U.S. international food-assistance outlays fluctuated from Fiscal Years 2016 to 2020 based in part on demands that changed due to conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia. In the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2020 and ending September 30, 2021, U.S.-flag ships delivered approximately 650,000 metric tons of food-aid cargoes around the globe.
One thing that doesn’t change is the rock-solid rationale for maintaining these laws. Again, we turn to the DoT for the following excerpt about why cargo preference is necessary: “Just as many other seafaring nations have learned, history has taught us that Cargo Preference … is necessary for our national defense and a key driver of domestic and foreign commerce. This requires a U.S.-flag commercial merchant marine that can be called upon in times of war or national emergencies. Therefore, Congress has determined that the United States have a merchant marine —
It is the United States’ policy to encourage and aid the development of a merchant marine satisfying the above objectives. By requiring that U.S.-flag carriers ship U.S. Government impelled cargo, we ensure that this economic activity and defense capability benefits the United States.”
While we’ve got a long way to go to meet the goal of having American-flag ships carry “a substantial part” of our exports and imports, the MTD wholeheartedly agrees with the above-stated rationale and goals.
Cargo-preference laws are good for America, good for the U.S. maritime industry – and good for the foreign citizens who benefit from many of the cargoes themselves.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils continue to push for strong and effective cargo preference laws; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD thank the Biden Administration for supporting these laws. We believe they should be maintained and strengthened, and we stand ready to help spread the word.
The maritime industry has a long history of bipartisan support, with the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act being the latest example of this dynamic.
If passed into law, the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act would require a portion of exported crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported on U.S.-built, U.S.-crewed and U.S.-flagged vessels, as well as the construction of new LNG vessels here in America.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Roger Wicker (R-MS), chair of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, and in the House of Representatives by John Garamendi (D-CA), chair of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee.
If enacted, the House bill – which has 33 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle – will support thousands of new, good-paying jobs in American shipyards, and provide a boost to the domestic vessel component manufacturing industry. According to an estimate from the Shipbuilders Council of America, the Wicker-Garamendi bill would result in the construction of more than 40 ships: approximately 28 LNG carriers by 2043 and 12 oil tankers by 2035.
The lawmakers say the bill would support American shipbuilding by requiring a “small percentage” of LNG and crude oil exports to be moved on U.S.-built, U.S.-crewed vessels by 2040. The bill would further require the construction of more than 50 new U.S. ships built by that same time, creating thousands of mariner and manufacturing jobs across the country.
According to Wicker, the bill would “strengthen our shipbuilding industry and would recognize the importance of having more American-flagged ships to transport our growing exports of oil and natural gas. China, India, and other nations are investing heavily in their shipbuilding capacity. The United States must keep up.”
This bill would help revitalize the U.S. maritime industry in countless ways.
If the title of this bill sounds familiar, it may be because it first was introduced five years ago. The fact that it is taking so long to get it passed is a genuine head-scratcher, given the bill’s many obvious benefits to the nation.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils fully support the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act, and encourage Congress to pass the bill into law; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils continue their efforts to revitalize and restore the nation’s shipbuilding capacity.
While it is a common practice to honor the valor and service of first responders at each MTD convention, this particular convention year’s statement carries additional weight. The COVID-19 pandemic that forever altered our world more than two years ago continues to strain our emergency services, and with it, the workers who make a living providing them.
Early in the pandemic, a grateful public hailed first responders as “superheroes” and “essential workers.” However, now that the pandemic is receding into the background, the sacrifices our brave brothers and sisters have made are in danger of being forgotten.
Sadly, first responders’ brave deeds seem most in danger of being forgotten at the negotiating table. Workers in major healthcare facilities around the country have had to organize strikes or walkouts to make it known they are underpaid, understaffed, and burnt out. Rather than awarding them with hazard pay and raises for their service, their bosses have chosen instead to offer raises that don’t even scale with inflation—if they offer raises at all.
Even those first responders outside of the healthcare field have had their daily work profoundly affected by the pandemic. Crime and automobile accidents have increased since COVID-19 first made landfall in the U.S. and Canada. Previously routine workplace tasks took on a new complexity once social distancing, masking, and other safety protocols had to be incorporated. It is no surprise, then, that an American Medical Association study found that first responders were twice as likely to contract COVID-19 in the workplace as other workers.
Furthermore, the pandemic also challenged our understanding of which occupations count as first responders. In addition to emergency services, law enforcement, firefighting, and other traditional fields, those who cook our meals, bag our groceries, care for our elders, teach our children and provide our public transportation found themselves on the front lines.
We cannot let the sacrifices of these workers go unrecognized, especially in light of how many of them made the ultimate sacrifice. The MTD will not forget their heroism and will fight to ensure it is recognized going forward, particularly when it comes time to make sure these workers are safe and well-compensated on the job in exchange for their selflessness.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils honor our first responders and their service to the public not just as the battle against COVID-19 continues but any time they go into harm’s way for the common good; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils stand in solidarity with these workers as they exercise their rights to organize, bargain collectively, carry out their responsibilities safely, and receive fair compensation for the vital work they do.
The MTD lost a good and dedicated friend in 2020.
Frank Pecquex passed away at the age of 75 following a long and gallant fight with Parkinson’s disease. He had been a fixture at these meetings going back to the 1980s.
Frank’s first union card came from the Amalgamated Transit Union during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York as a Greyhound ticket-taker. Next, he joined the Bakery Workers Union employed at an A&P. He also served in the Army Reserves.
After starting with the Seafarers in 1967, he became the legislative director for that union and the MTD beginning in 1985.
In 1991, Frank was promoted to MTD Administrator. Two years later, he became the Executive Secretary-Treasurer. He held that post for 18 years until his retirement in 2011. He served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer longer than anyone else in our department’s history.
Throughout his career, Frank always fought for the rights of workers. He never forgot that the money in the MTD’s coffers came from union members’ pockets.
Frank was a great union brother and is sorely missed.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the delegates and guests of the 2022 MTD Convention hold a moment of silence in respect and honor for our late brother, Frank Pecquex.
As we steam full ahead into the 2022 election season, the Labor Movement finds itself at a crossroads. The combination of a labor-friendly administration and a rising interest in collective action across the country has generated considerable momentum, but at the same time, the opponents of labor are as well-funded and determined to dismantle worker power as they have ever been. To make matters even more complicated, partisan gridlock has stymied progress on more than one item on the Labor Movement’s political agenda.
It has become cliché to refer to every upcoming election as the most important one yet, but it is undeniable the stakes heading into the upcoming balloting are quite high indeed. However, the 2022 election cycle will be but one battle in a much longer war that the Labor Movement needs to win. Sensing this, the AFL-CIO under President Elizabeth Shuler’s leadership has devised a new, far-reaching political strategy to keep labor on the offensive for the long haul.
In short, this strategy involves greater communication among the AFL-CIO, national and international unions, state federations and central labor councils, and locals and the rank-and-file membership. The day-to-day political realities of the rank-and-file must be amplified to the highest levels of the Labor Movement. Then the national and international leadership must ensure their unions’ political activities are tailored to the membership’s concerns. By dynamically responding to members’ interests, union leadership can keep its members permanently mobilized for the many political fights to come.
However, none of this amounts to anything without everyone in the Labor Movement exercising his or her constitutional right to vote. That the enemies of the working class have attempted so many times to interfere with that right only reveals how terrified they are of a unified Labor Movement making its voice heard.
This admonition goes beyond presidential and congressional elections. Union families must vote the whole ballot from state legislatures to city hall to local school boards. Those who seek to wrest power away from America’s working class operate best under the cover of darkness, funneling money into races that escape the notice of national media.
To overcome such underhanded skullduggery, labor cannot leave any political stone unturned. Leadership must do its part to educate members on the issues, but ultimately the responsibility rests with each union member to cast her or his ballot strategically. Without concentrated political power at every level of government, the Labor Movement cannot achieve its goals. In the words of late MTD President Paul Hall, “Politics is pork chops!”
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils mobilize on every level to ensure maximal union member participation in not just the upcoming 2022 elections, but in all upcoming elections because labor’s interests are and will be at stake.
In 2021, President Joe Biden signed an historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that represents the single largest investment by the government in U.S. infrastructure since the 1950s, according to some reports.
The funding provided by this bill will impact the lives of every American, in one way or another. And U.S. mariners are no exception to that statement, with millions and millions of dollars being allocated toward some of the nation’s most vital ports and waterways.
For instance, thanks to this infrastructure bill, the MTD-supported Soo Lock expansion project is fully funded. With the final $479 million secured, the Army Corps of Engineers now can work on the project without the funding running dry – allowing the work to be completed up to two years sooner,
according to an estimate from Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office.
Much of the media focus on the supply chain crisis has centered on ports serving the Los Angeles/Long Beach area. To help alleviate the current congestion and work to prevent future complications, the White House stated it would invest $8 million to improve commercial navigation within the Port of Long Beach. Included in the project is support for design work to widen the port’s main channel, deepen its entrance channel, and build an approach channel and turning basin.
On the Atlantic coast, the administration will fund $69 million to improve navigation and expand capacity in the harbor for Norfolk. Work will include deepening and widening its shipping channels to improve navigation and enable safer access for larger commercial and naval vessels. Norfolk saw a 67 percent increase in the number of containers moving through its docks over the last 10 years.
In the press release announcing these and other infrastructure-related expenditures, the White House noted, “Modern and resilient infrastructure strengthens our supply chains, supports U.S. competitiveness and economic growth, and protects communities from accelerating impacts of climate change.”
In total, the infrastructure bill allocated $2.9 billion – with a “b” – to transportation projects across the country. That money will go toward improving as many state-level infrastructure projects as possible, and the effects will be felt coast to coast. But it’s not enough. America’s crumbling infrastructure can’t be repaired, upgraded and modernized overnight with signing of a single bill.
The MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils applaud the passage and signing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Its funded projects are a great start.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils urge lawmakers to continue this trend, and find more funds for improving and upgrading America’s transportation system. Union workers stand ready to make these projects a reality; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils pledge to continue to fight for this appropriation.
As we in the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO plan our future, it is important that we take time to remember and honor those who have helped make the Department what it is today. Any and all success that we in the North American maritime industry and Labor Movement have had in enhancing the rights and job security of workers is due to the contributions of those who came before us.
Since we last met in convention, we have lost many good friends and co-workers. Among those for whom we mourn are:
Morton Bahr – former President of the Communications Workers of America, MTD Executive Board Member, and merchant mariner.
Paul Booth – former AFSCME Executive Assistant to the President and Labor advocate.
Frances Brown-McNair – former longtime MTD staff member.
Alan Cote – former President of the Puget Sound Ports Council and President of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.
Byron Charlton – former AFL-CIO legislative representative and Steel Worker.
Elijah Cummings – former U.S. Representative from Maryland and maritime supporter.
David Durkee – former President of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union and MTD Executive Board Member.
Vincent Giblin – former President of the International Union of Operating Engineers and MTD Executive Board Member.
Wayne Glenn – former President of the United Paperworkers International Union and MTD Executive Board Member.
Max Hall – former longtime MTD staff member.
Edwin Hill – former President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and MTD Executive Board Member.
Carolyn Jacobson – former BCTGM Communications Director and Labor advocate.
Ed Kelly – former Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Mobile Port Maritime Council.
George Kourpius – former President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and MTD Executive Board Member,
Robert Lowen – former President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.
Jack Martorelli – former President of the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council.
John Natoli – former Seafarer and Sergeant-at-Arms for MTD gatherings.
Joseph Nigro – former President of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and MTD Executive Board Member.
James Sanfilippo – former President of the Chicago and Western Lakes Port Council.
John Sweeney – former President of the AFL-CIO, President of the Service Employees International Union, and MTD Executive Board Member.
Richard Trumka – former President of the AFL-CIO, President of the United Mine Workers of America, and MTD Executive Board Member.
Alfred Whitehead – former President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, MTD Executive Board Member, and merchant mariner
Larry Willis – former President of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department.
Don Young – former U.S. Representative from Alaska, tugboat captain, and maritime supporter.
The suggested image for a ripple effect may be as gentle as a pebble being dropped into a calm body of water, whereupon the rings methodically branch outward in symmetry.
When it comes to the world’s seafarers and COVID-19, a more accurate picture would be one of a boulder falling into a wading pool.
In particular, perhaps no pandemic-induced challenge for global mariners has been greater than achieving crew changes. While significant progress has been made when it comes to getting mariners to and from work, the sheer scope and complexity of the crisis warrant reflection.
At its height, the crew-change crisis saw literally hundreds of thousands of mariners either unable to depart their respective ships or prevented from flying to and then climbing the gangways for their next assignments. The latter point at times has been overlooked, but it had a profoundly negative impact on seafarers’ ability to earn a living.
It’s not hard to understand why this crisis happened. With so many different types of restrictions in place throughout the world – and with those rules regularly changing not just from country to country but sometimes even from port to port within the same nation – it was and continues to be anything but routine.
Travel restrictions and other factors forced many of the world’s mariners to work past their scheduled finishing dates by months and in some cases more than a year in violation of international conventions. Again, those weren’t the lengths of the tours, but the extensions.
While it remains a work in progress, thanks to collective international action, it has become much easier for seafarers to get to and from work in timely fashion. Credit goes to numerous organizations including the International Transport Workers’ Federation and its affiliates, including members of the MTD; the United Nations; the International Maritime Organization; the International Labor Organization; the International Chamber of Shipping, and many others.
These groups also have worked to get mariners prioritized for vaccinations and facilitated the shots themselves.
For many people around the world, the pandemic offered new insights about how goods get from point to point, and in particular about the vastness and importance of maritime transportation. What cannot be overlooked is the value of merchant mariners themselves, and the fact that they are essential workers. Like all workers in all trades, they deserve proper treatment, most definitely including the ability to get to and from their vessels in timely fashion.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD applauds the work of every organization that has stood up for seafarers throughout the pandemic. We recognize both the tremendous progress and the work that remains; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils thank those mariners and their families who’ve sacrificed so much to continue delivering around the world.
We are in the midst of what some economists are calling “The Great Resignation”: a wave of workers voluntarily quitting, working reduced hours, or being laid off. The stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the workplace occasioned many workers to wonder whether or not they’ve received a fair deal at work all along. For a large number, the answer was a resounding no.
It is no surprise, then, that the last few years have been marked by a dramatic increase in labor actions of all kinds. Not only have strikes become more commonplace when workers reach their limit, but workers also are organizing in sectors that previously resisted unionization. Across the country, workers are waking up and realizing the power held collectively in their hands when they come together and take a stand.
Workers at Frito-Lay, Mondelez and Kellogg’s were among those who were told they were “essential employees” during the pandemic but discovered at the contract bargaining table that they only were “essential” to increased company profits. These BCTGM members hit the bricks last year across the country seeking better working conditions and pay after months of forced overtime. These battles gained national attention with the workers prevailing in all three strikes.
Even states with notoriously unfair labor laws have seen increased union activity. Alabama, which has been a so-called “right to work” state since the Eisenhower administration, is a notable example of the variety of labor actions happening around the country. Of particular note, the Warrior Met Coal strike has gone on since April 2021. United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members accepted pay and benefit cuts when their old company went bankrupt in 2016 and a new company organized by hedge funds acquired the facilities. However, these union members could not stand idly by after their pay and benefits were not restored while management rewarded themselves with bonuses after several profitable years.
The entire Labor Movement has been inspired by the Mine Workers’ fortitude and determination, particularly as Warrior Met resorted to unfair tactics, including the hiring of scabs and the using of local courts to block picket lines. Undeterred, UMWA members and supporters have protested against Warrior Met’s Wall Street masters in the nation’s capital, New York City, Denver, Boston, California and Australia.
Not far from the Warrior Met picket lines – in Bessemer, AL – union activity of a different sort was taking place in that town’s Amazon fulfillment warehouse. Workers there are attempting to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), setting the stage for a true David and Goliath battle against one of the world’s biggest, most ruthlessly anti-union companies.
While the Bessemer warehouse workers have attempted to vote for union protection, the RWDSU has provided evidence that Amazon was not playing by the rules. It is working with the National Labor Relations Board to allow the workers to have a fair election.
Meanwhile, Amazon fulfillment center workers in Staten Island, NY, beat the odds and prevailed in their April election to organize at that facility.
These are a few of the countless stories of labor actions around the country. Retail and service workers have tasted success in their organizing efforts, including those at Starbucks and REI. Media workers across the country are joining the CWA News Guild. Many others, from hospital workers to teachers, are facing the possibility of striking or walking out due to unfair working conditions exacerbated by the pandemic. While workers have had to endure much unnecessary suffering to get to this point, the Labor Movement is optimistic the tide may be turning in workers’ favor across the country in a way not seen since the end of World War II.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Maritime Trades Department, its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils stand in solidarity with workers organizing their workplaces and seeking to bolster their power on the job through collective action; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils condemn with full force any attempt to interfere with or otherwise impinge upon American workers’ lawful exercise of their labor rights – including the right to organize, the right to collectively bargain, and the right to strike.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Maritime Security Act, profoundly strengthening the bond between the U.S. Merchant Marine and the country it serves. The bill created the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which fortified the military’s sealift capability in times of war or emergency by providing the Department of Defense access to the current number of 60 U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed commercial vessels.
Furthermore, this capability provided by the MSP comes at a significantly lower cost to taxpayers than creating a permanent fleet of reserve government vessels to match it. The MSP also does not jeopardize the country’s readiness by depending on foreign vessels, crews and shipping companies.
America and its mariners mutually have benefited from this arrangement in the decades following MSP’s creation. Time and time again, the U.S. Merchant Marine has lent its professionalism and expertise when called to flashpoints. In return, the program has created jobs and revenue for Americans working on the high seas. As a testament to the program’s tremendous value, it has enjoyed military support as well as exceptional bipartisan backing since its inception.
Within the approved 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress and President Biden reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the MSP by fully funding the program and expanding its scope with new Tanker Security and Cable Security programs. The Tanker Security Program would authorize the Defense Department to enroll a fleet of 10 U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed tanker vessels for the military’s fuel needs in conflict or crisis. Additionally, two cable security vessels would be available to the department to maintain the integrity of the U.S.’s submarine cable infrastructure.
The importance of fully funding these programs should be demonstrable to even casual observers at this particular juncture of world events, with supply chain difficulties and geopolitical conflict testing the limits of the interconnected world. At any moment, the U.S. military may need to take swift and decisive action; MSP and the related tanker and cable security programs will ensure its sealift readiness when it is needed most.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils applaud those in Congress and the Biden administration who had the foresight to fund and expand the MSP fleet now, before any potential crisis intensifies past the point of no return; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils continue to advocate for full funding of the MSP as well as the new tanker and cable ship programs in the interest of both the nation’s security and economic welfare.
It is a well-established precept of international law that merchant vessels must be registered in a country in order to fly its flag. The vessel must operate under the laws of that country, and follow its regulations regarding safety, health, environmental, and labor standards. What makes the U.S.-flag merchant fleet so reputable on the high seas is its commitment to those superior standards.
However, many shipowners dodge these requirements by registering their vessels with “flag of convenience” (FOC) countries, whose registries are open to nearly anyone who can pay their fees regardless of their ties (or lack thereof) to the FOC country. In exchange, these countries offer shipowners an incredibly lax regulatory environment. Vessels registered in such countries generally become floating sweatshops. The conditions and pay on these vessels are quite often nothing short of deplorable—and in a few extreme cases, nothing.
FOC registries are created by economically desperate countries, trying to salvage national coffers with registry fees. Too often, the U.S. government has either turned a blind eye toward, or actively condoned, the creation of such registries.
Those who understood the importance of flying Old Glory warned against using FOC registries as a shortcut around the United States’ high standards. To this day, we see the results of those warnings going unheeded: incidents such as the grounding of the Panamanian-flagged Ever Given, which brought vessel traffic in the Suez Canal to a six-day standstill. The seafarers who have suffered on so-called “runaway flag” vessels, unnoticed to the world, have no doubt borne witness to even worse horrors.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its numerous global maritime member organizations, including several MTD affiliates, have done commendable work in documenting and addressing the myriad injustices the FOC system has wrought. The ITF has taken great strides to establish global minimum standards for pay and working conditions for mariners worldwide, in an attempt to halt the race to the bottom incentivized by FOCs. However, many entrenched interests are keen on maintaining the FOC status quo—or worse, finding new loopholes to exploit.
It was with great dismay that the U.S.-flag labor and maritime communities reacted to the news that the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) government was considering creating a second, open registry in consultation with an opportunistic for-profit maritime college. While the MTD is sympathetic to the USVI’s desire to create more economic opportunity for its residents, one only need look at the state of most FOC countries to observe how little these open registries have benefited them and their citizens in the long run.
Truth is, running a ship register benefits a select few. There is very little local employment created outside the actual register. Seafarers aboard FOC’s, as with second registers, are hired from low-income (also known as Global South) nations at less than $2 per hour.
Furthermore, the creation of an open U.S. registry takes jobs away from American mariners and shipping companies while harming the integrity of the U.S.-flag commercial fleet. It would tempt operators to forsake America’s global-setting standards for a few extra dollars. The potential negative implications of such a registry could jeopardize the welfare and safety of countless American seafarers, including those from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils renew their commitments to fight for fair labor standards and safe working conditions for mariners worldwide by calling for an end to flags of convenience, wherever they may be; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils, strongly condemn any attempt to circumvent the U.S. ship register through the creation of a second, open U.S, ship register in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils thank the AFL-CIO for its strong Executive Council statement in March condemning the creation of a USVI second registry.
The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO is not a “Johnny-come-lately” to the campaign to develop offshore windfarms to meet the future energy requirements for the United States and Canada.
During our 2009 convention, delegates adopted a resolution “that Congress must ensure that the development and operation of offshore renewable energy facilities will benefit American workers and American companies constructing and servicing such facilities; and… the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils do everything in their power to ensure that the cabotage and other federal laws are applied to the development of offshore renewable energy in all respects.”
The position taken 13 years ago still applies today.
Offshore windfarms are taking shape along the Atlantic coastline. Off Massachusetts, the Maritime Port Council of Greater Boston and New England Area is working with the local Building and Construction Trades to make sure this will be a union project. Off the coast of Virginia, unions are part of the planning and development process for a demonstration project that will lead the scores of turbines being installed.
More sites are being considered from New England to Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Pacific and across the Great Lakes. Unions affiliated with the MTD, the North American Building Trades Unions, and the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department are involved and working together for the tens of thousands of new jobs that will be required.
The North American energy grid will look vastly different in 10 years when the power from these offshore windfarms go online. While union sisters and brothers continue to refine petroleum and produce coal, cleaner forms of energy are the wave of the future. These jobs must go to workers in the United States and Canada. Unions will be a vital part of this change.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will continue to work with other brothers and sisters in the other Trades to plan, build and maintain North America’s energy-producing offshore windfarms; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will maintain its vigil on the cabotage laws of the United States and Canada to make sure these renewable energy jobs go to highly trained, qualified American and Canadian union workers.
The American economy is not working for many Americans. While corporations and the wealthy continue to capture the rewards of a growing economy, working families often are left behind.
Economic inequality has skyrocketed, as working people have been denied a voice on the job and more and more families are falling into poverty. From 1980 to 2017, average incomes for the bottom 90 percent of households increased just 1.1 percent, while average incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent increased more than 184 percent. This inequality is not a natural product of a functioning economy. Instead, it is the result of various policy choices, including archaic labor laws, that have stripped workers of their power to join together and negotiate for decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.
America’s labor laws are woefully outdated and have become ineffective as a means for working people to have their voices heard. Succinctly put, current labor laws are not strong enough to protect workers. High-profile corporations openly and blatantly oppose efforts to form unions, usually without ever facing consequences themselves. Workers therefore find themselves ensnared in environments where they often are overworked, underpaid, under-protected and underappreciated.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, U.S. employers, including many respectable, name-brand companies, collectively spend $340 million per year on “union avoidance” consultants who teach them how to exploit weaknesses in federal labor law to effectively scare workers out of exercising their legal right to collective bargaining.
Employers often resort to a series of heavy-handed tactics that turn overwhelming support for unions at the outset of a campaign into a “no” vote just weeks later. These include:
Congress must take action to ensure that workers have a right to vote to form a union in an atmosphere defined by free speech and open communication, and without fear of retaliation for standing up for their rights. The U.S. House of Representatives took an important step in this direction in March 2021 when it passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
Introduced by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the bill passed that chamber along a party line vote of 225-206. The measure must still clear the Senate and receive President Biden’s signature to become law. President Biden supports the measure.
The PRO Act is sweeping pro-worker legislation, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the New Deal era. If enacted, the PRO Act among other features would encourage the signing of a first contract after a union is formed, preventing employers from drowning the process in red tape. It would also fight back against employers who threaten or punish workers who seek to form a union, including banning the practice of employers hiring new staff to replace striking workers. Most importantly, this legislation would repeal so-called “right to work” laws, which as we know are rules that keep workers divided and poorer.
The deck has been stacked against America’s working families for decades. The PRO Act would move us towards a more equitable future. The U.S. Senate now has the opportunity to make the right choice for the millions of working people who keep this country running.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the United States bring its labor laws into the 21st century. It is time for the Senate to pass and the nation to enact the PRO Act.
The Labor Movement, including the Maritime Trades Department and its affiliates, has long advocated that working people should share in the wealth we help create and that our incomes should rise as we become more productive. A positive step in rewriting the rules of the nation’s economy so that it benefits all working people would be realized if Congress immediately acted to increase the federal minimum wage.
Last year President Biden, via executive power, instituted a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors. To date, however, legislating this rate on Capitol Hill for the private sector has proven to be a heavier lift.
In January 2021, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reintroduced the “Raise the Wage Act,” which would lift the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period and eliminate the tipped minimum wage. The ability to pass the bill as stand-alone legislation through regular order, however, proved impossible given the narrow Democratic margins in the Senate, where the support of 10 Republicans was needed to break a filibuster. Because of this stalemate, Senator Sanders earlier this year sought to advance the wage provision as a part of the budget reconciliation resolution for President Biden’s COVID-19 recovery stimulus package (the American Rescue Plan). However, the Senate parliamentarian found that the provision violated the rules of the budget reconciliation process and it was removed.
To reinvigorate consideration, President Biden during his recent State of the Union address called on Congress to raise the hourly wage rate to $15. The president also urged lawmakers to end the tipped minimum wage, as well as the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House. No significant progress concerning the minimum wage has transpired since that time.
Two-thirds of Americans currently support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Despite this statistic, the federal minimum wage has stood at $7.25 an hour since July 2009 when it was last increased. When accounting for inflation over the years, minimum-wage workers may be unable to afford gas at the pump, food at the grocery store, or their monthly rent.
These workers needed a $15 minimum wage years ago; and in fact, that popular benchmark target is no longer enough for most. Before 2020, it was estimated that two working adults in a family of four both needed a wage of $16.54 to stay afloat. Now, it’s estimated that a family of the same size would need $17.70 an hour for each adult.
Back in the 1930s when President Roosevelt created the minimum wage, he declared that it would be a “living wage” designed to provide the fully employed worker with enough to get by. The unfortunate reality is that his idea of a “Fair Day’s Pay for a Fair Day’s Work” no longer applies to those who make the federal minimum wage in the United States. A mere $15,000 a year is not enough to live on anywhere in the country. In most states, a worker would need to nearly double that just to get by.
A fair minimum wage isn’t just an issue for low-wage workers—it’s a problem for the entire country. Everyone, even the wealthy, will begin to feel the pressure if wages remain so low that Americans cannot keep the economy moving forward. Consumer spending makes up nearly 70% of our economy. If a significant portion of the population makes so little money that they can barely afford their basic needs, much less any other products or services, businesses and the economy as a whole are going to suffer. The nation needs more consumers with more money in their pockets, and the simplest way to get there is to raise the minimum wage.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils redouble our efforts to secure Congressional passage of legislation to increase the nation’s minimum wage for the first time in 13 years. Inaction is not an option for people who work hard and still cannot take care of themselves and their families.
While it’s nothing new for the Maritime Trades Department to advocate for safe workplaces, the subject took on additional scrutiny and urgency last year following allegations of sexual assault and misconduct involving cadets from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), which is based in King’s Point, NY. These allegations are serious, and have sounded the alarm for every mariner and shipping company to a potential blind spot in the industry.
The responses across the maritime community have been swift and numerous. The USMMA, the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration have created the “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture” or EMBARC program, which aims to eliminate barriers to reporting incidents of sexual harassment while aboard a ship or on any maritime training campus. The program also would institute safeguards so that harassment doesn’t take place to begin with.
The Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-OR), introduced the Safer Seas Act, which specifically seeks to provide new protections against sexual harassment on a vessel. That legislation, which took into account a lot of feedback from maritime labor, is backed by the MTD and our seagoing affiliates. It reflects our shared commitment to continuing to educate members about the ongoing importance of protecting shipmates from any and all harassment.
Moreover, as stated in a joint letter signed by the presidents of seven maritime labor organizations – including MTD President Michael Sacco: “Turning a blind eye is not acceptable. All seafarers must be committed to active opposition to any type of harassment, bullying or discriminatory behavior. It is our collective duty to protect and respect our shipmates. As maritime professionals and decent human beings, we must look out for one another.”
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, in solidarity with all of the maritime industry, is committed to the safety of every mariner and maritime student; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will continue to implement and improve upon preventative measures to keep sexual harassment and sexual assault from ever taking place.
Before the global epidemic of COVID-19 shut down everyday life in early 2020, only specialists could understand and explain what the term “supply chain” meant. Consumers without thinking simply drove to their neighborhood stores or placed online orders and items they required magically appeared.
Then came the worldwide disruption of almost everything. Goods that once were manufactured in factories found across the United States and Canada now were unavailable because they came from faraway lands and couldn’t be shipped to North America. People discovered empty store shelves they thought only happened in underdeveloped countries. What was causing this?
Media began reporting that the “supply chain” was broken. Trucks were not permitted to cross international borders, while ships did not have cargo to move. Ports reduced personnel due to a lack of work. This not only included dockers, but also rail and trucking crews.
However, as medical advances allowed the economy to come back to life, the press started showing scenes of ships at anchor outside harbors waiting to dock to offload and load containers while boxes – both full and empty – were stacked shoreside. Ports, doing all they could to return to normal operations, were running out of space and caught off-guard by the sudden rise of consumer spending.
Consumers learned there were consequences to the offshoring of manufacturing jobs. Supply chains bringing raw materials from one country to be manufactured in a different country then delivered to yet other lands kept warehouses and stores supplied and people happy.
While the global supply chain quickly slowed down at the height of the pandemic, getting it back to where it was remains a concern.
The U.S.-flag and Canadian-flag maritime unions are working to restore the supply chain.
Late last year, the American maritime industry told the U.S. Transportation Department it is providing certainty to American customers and consumers, undeterred by supply chain disruptions and congestion impacting global shipping and major international U.S. ports, particularly on the West Coast.
Both the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) and USA Maritime (to which the MTD and some affiliates belong) responded to government requests for comments. AMP underscored the continued reliability of America’s domestic maritime services despite the current supply chain crisis.
“While the supply chain issues pertaining to our import-export trades persist, the men and women of America’s domestic maritime industry will continue to do our part to deliver for Americans,” said AMP President Mike Roberts. “The current supply chain problems highlight once again the importance of maintaining a highly resilient and dedicated American supply chain for serving customers in our domestic markets.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and foreign shipping supply chain crisis, American maritime has provided steady and reliable transportation service for citizens across the United States, including the non-contiguous areas of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. When the pandemic began, more than 500 trans-Pacific sailings were cancelled, or “blanked” by international carriers. On the other hand, few if any domestic voyages have been blanked by any Jones Act carrier during the same time period. The ability to continue this uninterrupted service during a crisis is due in part to the Jones Act, the fundamental law of the maritime industry.
The USA Maritime comments were issued “to shed light on the critical need to protect, preserve, and grow our maritime workforce, specifically our mariners, for all Department of Defense cargo needs,” the coalition said in a statement issued by its chairman, C. James Patti.
After reviewing a national security directive that spells out the ongoing need for strong sealift capability, Patti quoted several prominent U.S. military leaders past and present who have urgently called for maritime industry revitalization.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will continue to do everything in their power to restore the North American supply chain; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils sustain the never-ending battle for good jobs in the United States and Canada; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils persist in the fight to improve and upgrade the infrastructure of our two nations, including our ports and harbors.
When the pandemic forced the MTD to cancel our 2020 Executive Board meeting, we missed a chance to acknowledge the centennial of a massively important American maritime law.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 includes a cabotage provision, known as the Jones Act, that requires ships moving cargo between two points in the United States to be carried aboard vessels built, crewed, flagged and owned American. Since its inception, the Jones Act unfailingly has proven its value as an indispensable law that benefits American workers and the American economy.
The Jones Act enjoys bipartisan support, and is widely recognized as vital to U.S. national, economic and homeland security.
Moreover, as reported at our 2018 Executive Board meeting, nearly 100 nations across the globe maintain some form of cabotage law. That’s because it’s sound policy. And that’s why maritime labor has fought to maintain cabotage in Canadian waters while our Australian brothers and sisters are working for its restoration in that country.
But, as many in this audience know, facts rarely get in the way of Jones Act critics, and we’ve seen that scenario play out again this year. Just a few months ago, anti-Jones Act amendments were introduced in Congress, ostensibly in response to gasoline prices. Figuratively, those proposals went down in flames, because most legislators understand that (a) the Jones Act essentially has no effect on gas prices and (b) weakening the law undoubtedly would have negative unintended consequences.
Still, these nonsensical amendments reminded us about the importance of helping educate politicians at every level of government.
In that vein, we look to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which, in its 2019 study for the Transportation Institute titled “Contributions of the Jones Act Shipping Industry to the U.S. Economy,” found that the law helps maintain around 650,000 American jobs while contributing billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy. Another benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked is that the Jones Act helps maintain a pool of well-trained, reliable, U.S. citizen mariners who are available to sail on American-flag military support ships during times of crisis.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils remain fully committed to backing the Jones Act and also to supporting cabotage laws around the world; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we belatedly but enthusiastically recognize the Jones Act’s centennial. Here’s to at least another 100 years for one of the most effective laws in U.S. history.
Millions of military families – composed of veterans, active duty service members, spouses and dependents – make their home within the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) says the military trains people in skills applicable in hundreds of civilian occupations. Despite being well prepared for civilian employment, veterans over the last decade have consistently reported that finding a job was the top challenge they faced when they hung up their uniforms and transitioned into civilian life.
However, as recently as late 2019, the veteran employment landscape began to change course in dramatic, positive fashion. According to DOL, in December 2019, the veteran unemployment rate dropped to 2.9%. That December number marked the 16th consecutive month that the veteran unemployment rate was lower than the nonveteran unemployment rate. Moreover, the veteran unemployment rate for the calendar year of 2019 was 3.1%, the lowest annual veteran unemployment rate since 2000. By March 2022, the veteran unemployment rate was 2.4%, down from 4.8% the prior year.
Years ago, veteran unemployment ranged in the double digits. In 2011, the Obama administration launched its Joining Forces Initiative, which called on all sectors of society to hire veterans and spouses, and opened avenues for veteran employment. The country’s response was immediate and widespread.
The Department of Defense transformed its Transition Assistance Program into weeklong, mandatory training sessions for transitioning service members, giving them the skills and knowledge necessary to secure jobs, seek education and pursue optional training, such as how to start a business.
More federal agencies, corporations and nonprofit organizations followed suit, joined the hiring effort, and sought veterans for employment. For example, the American Maritime Partnership’s “Military2Maritime” (M2M) program, backed by many MTD affiliates, was one means through which the objective was to be achieved. This initiative sought to reduce regulatory credentialing burdens so service members could best use their military time and training to find family-wage employment in the civilian U.S.-flag maritime industry. The M2M effort also organized maritime career and job-hire forums at port cities nationwide through which veterans were afforded the opportunity to maximize their professional strengths by meeting with representatives from maritime companies, training schools, unions and others to learn about career opportunities in the U.S.-flag maritime industry.
In March 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13860, entitled “Supporting the Transition of Active Duty Service Members and Military Veterans into the Merchant Marine.” This mandate generated awareness to the critical importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine to the national security, safety, and prosperity of our nation. Further, it aimed to more easily facilitate the transition of active duty service members into the U.S. maritime industry.
More recently, President Biden placed veterans in the driver’s seat by looking to them as a remedy for the country’s continuing critical supply chain issues. America’s trucking industry moves 72% of American goods, but needs 80,000 new truckers to keep the country moving. Trucking costs rose by 20% in 2021, according to a White House statement. Meanwhile, a surge in demand for truckers during the global COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a declining number of truck drivers due to high turnover caused by low job quality.
To address this critical supply chain shortcoming, Biden on April 4, 2022, launched the Veterans Trucking Task Force. The Veterans Trucking Task Force will work with national veterans’ organizations to create a plan to attract vets and separating service members to the trucking industry.
“If you can handle a tank, if you can handle an armored personnel carrier, you can sure as hell handle one of these suckers,” Biden said, referring to the trucks parked behind the podium on the White House South Lawn when he launched the trucking task force. The foregoing veteran opportunities have made huge strides toward our ultimate goal of a fully employed veterans’ force. As a nation, however, we can and must continue to aid and assist those who put it all on the line for us.
The MTD has a rich tradition of supporting our men and women in uniform – both active duty and retired – and their families. We are a proud member of the Union Veterans Council, and our affiliates have many veterans on their membership rolls. That tradition remains very much alive and applicable today.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD calls upon its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils to continue with this campaign to ensure that every veteran in search of employment finds it in short order; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we hold our troops and veterans in the very highest regard, and we thank them for their service.