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Union Solidarity for Jones Act Hits Capitol Hill


Letters from the MTD-affiliated International Association of Machinists (IAM) and the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO are reaching Capitol Hill offices to stop the attack on the Jones Act following the disastrous hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“On behalf of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, I strongly urge you to oppose the shameless attacks against the Jones Act by those who cruelly use the human suffering in Puerto Rico to try and move a senseless ideological agenda,” wrote IAM President Robert Martinez.

“IAM members stand committed to the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands whose communities have been devastated by Hurricane Maria. The IAM has many members who live and work on these storm-ravaged islands,” Martinez continued.

“Our members across the United States have contributed financially, materially, and by volunteering directly in the recovery effort; and we will continue to support these relief efforts as long as necessary. There are many ways to help the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but eliminating the Jones Act is not one of them,” he concluded.

Metal Trades Department President James Hart expressed similar strong concerns regarding legislation being offered by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT), S. 1894, to completely do away with the Jones Act in the Puerto Rican trade.

“On behalf of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO and its 17 affiliated national and international unions, I strongly urge you to oppose S. 1894, which would exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act,” stated Hart, who used to serve on the MTD Executive Board.

Both letters identified the problem for aid not getting to those in need to Puerto Rico’s badly damaged infrastructure, noting that US-flag vessels have been and are delivering thousands of containers with relief supplies weekly to the Port of San Juan.

“The argument used by [Jones Act] opponents that the United States shipping industry does not have the capacity to expeditiously deliver needed cargo for the island’s recovery effort is patently false,” added Hart.

Jones Act foes attacked immediately after Hurricane Maria cleared the Caribbean despite overwhelming evidence that US-flag ships crewed by American merchant mariners were bringing aid as soon as the Port of San Juan reopened on September 23. After initially declining to issue a waiver, President Trump authorized a 10-day suspension of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico on September 28. (As of October 5, no foreign-flag ship had sought to use a waiver.)

Misguided email assaults on the Jones Act persisted in stating the nation’s freight cabotage law was preventing foreign-flag vessels from entering San Juan or other ports in Puerto Rico as well as the Virgin Islands, which is blatantly untrue. The fact is a majority of the goods to both jurisdictions come aboard foreign-flag ships.

Others have tried to claim the Jones Act is a leading cause of the Puerto Rican financial crisis, which was refuted in a 2013 independent review of the Jones Act by the Government Accountability Office.

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