From the administration, from Capitol Hill, from the military and elsewhere, support for the Jones Act continues to be expressed.
Last week, rank-and-file members as well as officials from a half-dozen MTD and Metal Trades Department affiliates met with U.S. Senators and Representatives to thank them for their backing of the nation’s freight cabotage law. In addition, the MTD-affiliated International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Brotherhood of Boilermakers included a Jones Act fact sheet within the information packets their members distributed on Capitol Hill during their annual legislative action days.
Long a defender of the Jones Act even before serving in the Trump Administration, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao reconfirmed her support during a hearing of the House Transportation Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.
“I’m a tremendous advocate of the U.S. merchant fleet – the Jones Act and also of cargo preference,” the secretary told the subcommittee on April 12.
When asked by U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) how to strengthen the U.S.-flag fleet, Chao responded, “Protect the Jones Act, protect cargo preference… and then finally, the MSP (Maritime Security Program) program.”
Three days earlier, Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby told a panel at the 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, “Take away the Jones Act, you have taken away the majority of jobs for our U.S. mariners in peacetime that we need in wartime. Getting rid of the Jones Act does not think through all the ramifications it has on our war-fighting ability – and to sustain the Navy and to sustain the Marine Corps.” (Buzby is a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral.)
The day after the union delegation met with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), he took to the floor of the House of Representatives “to express my continued support of American maritime jobs through enforcement of the Jones Act.”
Larsen added, “At its core, the Jones Act is a critical labor standard that helps put U.S. seafarers to work and maintains important workplace rights.
“Last year, I spoke up to support the Jones Act fleet in its heroic response to the natural disaster that hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a senior member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to uphold the longstanding tenants of the Jones Act to safeguard the important role maritime industries play in our economy.”
He concluded by declaring, “The Jones Act exists for good reason. We should use it to good effect.”
Earlier in April, the head of the U.S. Transportation Command told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee of his strong feelings for the Jones Act.
In response to questioning from U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Gen. Darren W. McDew answered, “My primary focus is on national security and the capacity that I need to take this nation to war. It is our asymmetric advantage to deliver a decisive force in the maritime domain. The rheostats I have to effect that balance right now is helped by the Jones Act and cargo preference, because being able to get more mariners to work allows us to have the capacity we need to go to war.”
During a separate panel at the aforementioned Sea-Air-Space Exposition, held in a Washington suburb, Anthony Fisher, the Maritime Administration’s deputy associate administrator for commercial sealift, reminded the audience that the Jones Act did not “hamper” the emergency response to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. “The Jones Act made the response possible.”
During that same panel discussion, a U.S. Coast Guard flag officer and an official from Customs and Border Patrol stated the Jones Act helps secure America’s homeland.
“The Coast Guard is responsible for the safety and stability of the marine transportation system, and [if you repeal the Jones Act] you just made our job a whole lot harder,” noted USCG RADM John P. Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy.
“We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall,” Michael Hebert, chief of the Customs and Border Patrol’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement, pointed out. “Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign-flagged vessels.”