The September 11th attacks also drew attention to many of the other issues that the MTD had been promoting. For the first time in decades, Congressional hearings were held on the FOC system and how its lack of transparency was posing a threat to American interests. According to witnesses who testified on Capitol Hill, the United States has virtually no idea who owns, or who controls, a number of ships that are considered under its “Effective U.S. Control.” Moreover, given the lax standards that exist in the international community, the U.S. government lacks a clear understanding of who is manning these vessels—or whether the documents they hold are valid—or even whether they have the required training.
The MTD also drew attention to other potential security threats. In letters to Congress, it noted that, on average, the U.S. government spends $19 on airline security for every dollar that it spends on port security. Moreover, this spending pattern was occurring at a time when American port personnel were able to inspect fewer than 10 percent of all vessels using their facilities.
Many of the nation’s leading lawmakers saw a connection between port security and the nation’s cabotage laws. In addition to arguing for the adoption of a comprehensive federal policy that includes more federal monies for U.S. port security, they have argued that U.S. security will be enhanced if the integrity of the Jones Act is preserved.
In related developments, the MTD has given strong support to Congressional efforts to increase the U.S. Naval construction rate. The decline of the U.S. fleet by roughly one-half over the past two decades is compromising important U.S. security interests. It also is backing plans to provide the U.S. Coast Guard with adequate monies to upgrade its “Deepwater” acquisitions, which would modernize the agency’s fleet of main line vessels. In addition to generating jobs for U.S. shipyard workers, the program enhances U.S. security interests by strengthening an institution that is on the front lines of America’s war against terror.
Americans began realizing that security also means responding to events here at home. U.S. civilian mariners won high praise for their relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Transportation Department, Maritime Administration and other federal agencies are looking into ways to make better use of their capabilities.
In addition to promoting to a strong U.S. maritime industry, the MTD has been supporting the AFL-CIO’s efforts to enhance the quality of life for all American workers and their families by supporting its efforts on a variety issues—health care, safety, trade, jobs, retirement security and labor law reform.
The MTD’s 2006 executive board meetings pretty much highlighted where maritime labor stands today. Representatives from the U.S. military, government, maritime labor and U.S.-flag shipping companies stood united in their belief that the U.S. maritime industry plays an indispensable role in enhancing America’s strategic sealift capability. They pledged to work together to ensure that the brave men and women of the U.S. military continue to get the kind of support that they deserve.
Contrasting the dark situation of the late 1980s with the mostly positive developments of today, the MTD executive board noted how the Department’s grass roots campaigns, combined with the outstanding work that U.S. civilian mariners have displayed in theaters as far-flung as New Orleans and Iraq, have helped revitalize an industry that some people never believed would float again.
As the MTD enters its seventh decade of its existence, it is clear that maritime labor has come a long way and has a lot to look forward to. As we look to the future, we will continue to draw inspiration from that fateful day in 1946 when the AFL issued a charter to the MTD “for the purposes of organizing workers into labor unions and to form a more perfect federation of all trades.”