The 2019 recipient of the Paul Hall Award of Merit set the tone for the annual Maritime Port Council of Greater New York/New Jersey and Vicinity’s dinner/dance when he proclaimed: “An attack on the Jones Act is an attack on your members and their families. So, as far as I’m concerned, an attack on the Jones Act is an attack on the BCTGM!”
David Durkee, the International President of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union, showed the solidarity he said was so prevalent in the award’s namesake as well as in current MTD President Michael Sacco.
Durkee joined U.S. Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY) and Russell Paret, President/CEO of Schuyler Line Navigation Company, in being recognized for their efforts on behalf of the U.S.-flag merchant marine and working people during the June 22 event in New York City.
Durkee said Paul Hall (who served as MTD President from 1957 to 1980) stood for “strong and principled leadership,… creativity, innovation and breaking new ground to improve the lives and standard of living of his members and their families,… unflinching courage,… an unyielding commitment to the highest values and standards of trade unionism.
“He was about Labor Solidarity and always being there for fellow union members and he never forgot where he came from,” Durkee told the audience.
“I did not know Paul Hall, but I do know Mike Sacco. Mike is someone for whom I have the greatest respect because he embodies those very same qualities as his predecessor, Paul Hall.
“Mike Sacco is a fighter who has never backed down or backed up when it comes to protecting and advancing the rights and well-being of his members and all working men and women in the Maritime Trades. When it comes to legislative and regulatory issues affecting workers in the Maritime Trades, there is nobody in Washington, D.C., who has more credibility and more respect than Mike Sacco,” he continued.
The BCTGM president updated the crowd of nearly 400 on his union’s battle with Mondelez/Nabisco to stop outsourcing union jobs to Mexico. He said the company is paying workers in Mexico as little as “97 cents an hour with no benefits” to bake such icons as Oreo and Chips Ahoy.
“The first Labor organization to support our nationwide consumer boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico was the Maritime Trades Department,” Durkee recalled.
“Mike Sacco and the Maritime Trades Department are always there with fraternal support for another union when called upon. More often than not, they don’t wait to be asked for help. They reach out and say how can we help. That, Brothers and Sisters, is what Solidarity is all about.”
In introducing Durkee, MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan referred to the Nabisco campaign by displaying a bag of Chips Ahoy and showing the audience where to look on the look back packaging to see if the words “Made in Mexico” appear. “If ‘Made in Mexico’ is not printed, then they are high-quality union-made cookies,” Duncan said.
U.S. Rep. Suozzi received the Government Man of the Year Award for his years of fighting on behalf of working people in New York and Washington.
He recognized several times throughout the evening, “Labor and management working together – this model of the manufacturing industry is the hope for America. This industry is a great example.”
Suozzi pointed out the nation’s economy “is leaving too many people behind. “We need the economy to go big.”
He cited Wall Street has gained 1,200 percent since 1983; the gross domestic product has increased 600 percent since 1983; but “workers’ wages have increased by 20 percent.
“The economy has to be inclusive,” the second-term legislator from Long Island declared. “We have to make America fair again.”
He reiterated his vow to “fight for U.S.-flag ships any way I can.
“I like this model – Labor and management working together. We need to make this country the dream it should be.
“We need to build something beautiful,” Suozzi concluded.
MTD Executive Board Member and Seafarers Union Executive Vice President Augie Tellez introduced Suozzi by noting his father was an immigrant who fought in World War II, became a justice of the New York Supreme Court and provide the values Suozzi still follows: “hard work, justice, right and wrong, and look out for others.”
When Suozzi was elected, he served on the House Armed Services Committee where “he learned about maritime and we learned him good
Tellez said Suozzi is “an up-and-coming politician who is good for the country and good for our industry.”
Upon receiving the Herb Brand Award, Schuyler Line Navigation President/CEO Paret announced, “I appreciate all those working hard at sea tonight. I am grateful to have the best team in the world.”
Paret oversees U.S.-flag operations that include Jones Act, cargo preference and Maritime Security Program vessels.
“Thank you to Labor for supporting U.S.-flag shipping,” added the SUNY Maritime College graduate.
“We all play important roles – lawmakers, crew, maintenance, operations and crewing, and, of course, Labor. Too many people don’t know about the U.S.-flag industry.
“We need a national maritime strategy,” he offered to loud applause. “To survive and thrive, we must be bod.”
Presenting Paret was SIU Vice President for Contracts George Tricker.
“His colors are red, white and blue. He is someone you can trust – a true patriot and a great American,” stated Tricker, adding, “He treats mariners properly and with respect.”