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PMC Pres Joseph Soresi (center) greets NJ AFL-CIO Pres Charles Wowkanech (left) and NJ AFL-CIO Sec-Treas Laurel Brennan before the dinner.

PMC Pres Joseph Soresi (center) greets NJ AFL-CIO Pres Charles Wowkanech (left) and NJ AFL-CIO Sec-Treas Laurel Brennan before the dinner.

Hundreds of union members and U.S.-flag shipping representatives packed the ballroom of the Sheraton New York-Times Square on October 19 for the 52nd annual dinner hosted by the Maritime Port Council of Greater New York/New Jersey and Vicinity.

Honorees for the evening included New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan with the Paul Hall Award of Merit; Anil Mathur, president and CEO of union-contracted Alaska Tanker Company, with the Herb Brand Memorial Man of the Year Award; U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) as the Government Man of the Year; and U.S. Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) with a Special Lifetime Achievement Award.

In presenting Brennan with the Paul Hall Award, PMC Secretary-Treasurer Peter Busacca said she is ‘what one looks for in a labor leader.” Busacca cited his years of working with Brennan not only on behalf of the port council, but also in his position as president of the Hudson County (NJ) Central Labor Council. He pointed out Brennan is the first woman to serve as the state secretary-treasurer thanks to the work she did throughout her career to advance females in the union movement.

“I am honored to receive the Paul Hall Award of Merit,” Brennan told the audience. She said she respected Hall’s belief in supporting unions through organizing. Before wrapping up, she reminded New Jersey residents that November 5 is Election Day and urged them to support the amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage.

MTD Board Member (and Seafarers Executive Vice President) Augie Tellez talked about his first meeting with Mathur years ago. He recalled that Mathur said “each one has the power to create a safe environment on a vessel.” Tellez added that Mathur shows a fierce commitment to having the safest vessels on the high seas. “He trusts unions and the people who work for him,” Tellez concluded before offering the Herb Brand Award.

Mathur told the gathering that he was “overwhelmed by all this attention. All of us working together achieve great things. Trust is the foundation which gets things done.” Mathur added he is proud of his relationship with his shipping unions. He noted, “Value is created by the workers themselves.”

When it was time to recognize Schatz, MTD President Michael Sacco declared, “Anybody who is a friend of Neil Abercrombie is a friend of ours.” (Abercrombie is a longtime supporter of the U.S.-flag fleet, having served Hawaii in Congress before being elected governor of that state in 2010.) Schatz became senator from Hawaii upon the death of lifetime U.S.-flag supporter Daniel Inouye last year. Schatz was the lieutenant governor at the time. Sacco saluted the senator for his efforts to support workers and the industry during his brief time in Washington: “Senator Schatz has stood with us on every issue.”

Accepting the award on Schatz’ behalf was his chief of staff, Andy Winer, who apologized for the senator as he was called home on a family emergency. Winer said the senator understands “the tradition for strong leadership for maritime.” He noted that during Schatz’ first interview after coming to Washington he was asked about the Jones Act. “He said he is an unmoved supporter of the Jones Act. He understands these are American jobs!” Winer added that the senator also supports the Food for Peace Program and is seeking to improve and upgrade the nation’s ports and harbors.

MPC President Joseph Soresi accepted LoBiondo’s award, as the congressman also could not attend the event. Soresi thanked all who have supported the dinner throughout the years, and who have stood with the maritime workers and the industry. He expressed his special appreciation to his assistant, Michele Nardo, for all her work behind the scenes to make the evening a success.