The executive board of the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO recently approved the following statement.
THE JONES ACT
For those of us in the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, saying that the Jones Act is beneficial to America may generate a response like the currently popular reply to someone who’s stating the obvious: “In other news, water is wet.”
Nevertheless, while the MTD and its affiliates are well-versed in the very significant plusses associated with America’s freight cabotage law, not everyone outside the industry is similarly enlightened. With that in mind, it’s always welcome news when an organization like the highly regarded Lexington Institute speaks out on behalf of a law that accounts for hundreds of thousands of American jobs and that helps pump billions of dollars into the economy.
The Lexington Institute is non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in the Washington suburbs. Among other issues, the organization focuses on national security.
Late last year, the Institute released a study firmly supporting the fact that the Jones Act has a significantly positive effect on U.S. national and economic security. The Jones Act, of course, mandates that cargo moving from one U.S. port to another be carried aboard vessels that are crewed, flagged, owned and built American.
The report points out that nearly all of the nation’s major cities are connected to waterways. The fact that many of the nation’s economic bases are linked by water exemplifies how unique and important the sea is to the development and sustainment of the country.
Additionally, the report demonstrates that the U.S.-flag maritime industry has played a big role in projecting American influence, trade, and armed forces around the world. Having strong prepositioning forces, for instance, enables the U.S. to address threats to national security, help other nations and American citizens when it comes to natural disasters, and secure and facilitate trade routes, the study finds. All of these goals and operations are supported by an American-flag civilian fleet including work done by members of MTD unions. And while prepositioning ships don’t sail in the Jones Act trades, they often rely on well-trained, loyal, U.S.-citizen mariners who at other times do sail on Jones Act vessels.
In short, according to this and other reports, having a strong civilian-crewed U.S.-flag fleet is vital to ensuring national and economic security. The Jones Act helps maintain such a fleet along with a viable pool of mariners. The alternative would be a dangerous option, especially in a time of crisis, the study shows.
“Although the Jones Act was not written with today’s threats to homeland security in mind, its provisions provide an important base on which to build the systems, processes and procedures needed to secure America,” the report states. It goes on to say, “The provisions in the Jones Act regarding vessel ownership and manning simplify efforts to ensure that rogue regimes and international terrorists cannot strike at this country via its ports and waterways. One could readily assert that were there no Jones Act, Congress would have to invent one.”
We wholeheartedly agree, even while also recognizing that the Jones Act regularly comes under attack by foreign-flag and anti-worker interests whose agendas arguably range from the dubious to the outright vicious.
The MTD therefore once again vows to continue its work with its affiliates, Port Maritime Councils and grassroots organizations like the American Maritime Partnership to promote and protect the Jones Act in every possible way, including by educating elected officials as well as the American public about the critical magnitude and irreplaceable value of the Jones Act.