While support for the Jones Act was the primary focus of the annual MTD Executive Board meeting held March 8-9 near Orlando, the board members and guests heard about the non-shipping Puerto Rican relief actions undertaken by MTD affiliates.
The Machinists (IAM) provided two videos showing their members working with other unions in and near Philadelphia amassing supplies for a special American Airlines flight to the island. According to Gil Simmons, assistant general chairperson for IAM District 141, the trade unionists “collected over 60,000 pounds of supplies” at Lodge 1776 in Philadelphia that were loaded onto that flight. Simmons acknowledged the work of MTD Western Area Executive Board Member and IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja for arranging to transport the goods free of charge while the union and company are in contract negotiations.
“It’s our motto: Service to the Community,” Simmons told the MTD Board. “I have never been prouder to be a part of the AFL-CIO and the fighting Machinists Union.”
Taking the podium on March 8 just before Simmons was Juan Negron, chief of staff for IAM’s eastern territory. He spoke about an earlier relief flight from Newark, NJ, loaded with not only supplies but also more than 300 union volunteers dedicated to rebuilding the island and healing its citizens.
“I’ve got to say it was the best feeling I ever had in the Labor Movement,” Negron reported. “We came together as one.”
Negron was on that United Airlines flight which was coordinated by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. Aboard that jet were members from than 20 different unions – including about a dozen MTD affiliates.
Negron referred to seeing “the Island of Enchantment in shambles.” His description was that it appeared “like an atomic bomb had been dropped on the island.”
As soon as the volunteers departed the flight, Negron told the gathering, “I never saw so many workers so motivated and ready to work on Day One. Nurses taking care of people and paying for supplies from their own pockets. Trades chipping in money for people they don’t know to put a roof over their heads.
“It was an honor to have worked with all of them together,” he added.
Finally, Negron, who serves on the board of the Maritime Port Council of Greater New York/New Jersey and Vicinity, thanked that council’s president Joe Soresi for explaining what the Jones Act actually does and how many hundreds of thousands of American jobs are related to it.
In addition, board members and guests saw a video produced by the National Nurses Union covering the United relief flight.