When he opened the 2019 meeting of the Maritime Trades Department (MTD) Executive Board near Orlando on February 21, Michael Sacco emphasized two ongoing struggles of paramount importance to working families.
“One of the most positive stories for the MTD and the entire Labor Movement, I believe, is how we’ve responded to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME,” the MTD president said to the board members and guests. “This was supposed to be the beginning of the end for unions. But as one national columnist recently put it: ‘So much for the labor movement’s funeral.’”
He pointed out that large unions including the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees actually have gained members since the ruling, which would allow free riders at union-contracted public employee facilities.
“The Janus ruling is still a farce, and nobody is pretending it’s good news for Labor,” Sacco continued. “But you know what? I think it shook us out of the doldrums in a lot of ways. It made us re-educate people about why unions are so important. It made us ramp up our engagement, and the results have been very positive…. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
He then focused on a relatively new, well-funded campaign aimed at repealing the Jones Act – a law that’s vital to U.S. national, economic and homeland security. The misguided attacks are “nothing new, even though they will be on a larger scale. We’re fighting this battle every day,” he said of the latest attempt to overturn the nation’s cabotage law.
Sacco wrapped up his opening remarks with a quick reflection on the recent government shutdown. “During that time, our affiliates and Port Councils really stepped up to support the people who were out of work and those who were forced to work without a paycheck,” he recalled. “We collected gift cards and food donations coast to coast and in Hawaii. We rallied in the streets and we marched at airports and elsewhere to stand up for the rank-and-file worker, no matter if they were union members or not.
“There is no doubt that our collective actions and those of the affected workers themselves ended the shutdown,” he continued. “We showed our strength, but we also showed solidarity and compassion for our fellow man. That’s what the Labor Movement is all about. That’s what the MTD is all about. And that’s why I know we’ll always have a bright future as long as we’re willing to stand together and work for it.”