Support the Jones Act - maritime labor continues fight to sustain cabotage laws

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The following resolution was approved by the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, during its convention in June. American Maritime Officers is affiliated with the MTD.

When the pandemic forced the MTD to cancel our 2020 Executive Board meeting, we missed a chance to acknowledge the centennial of a massively important American maritime law.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 includes a cabotage provision, known as the Jones Act, that requires ships moving cargo between two points in the United States to be carried aboard vessels built, crewed, flagged and owned American. Since its inception, the Jones Act unfailingly has proven its value as an indispensable law that benefits American workers and the American economy.

The Jones Act enjoys bipartisan support, and is widely recognized as vital to U.S. national, economic and homeland security.

Moreover, as reported at our 2018 Executive Board meeting, nearly 100 nations across the globe maintain some form of cabotage law. That's because it's sound policy. And that's why maritime labor has fought to maintain cabotage in Canadian waters while our Australian brothers and sisters are working for its restoration in that country.

But, as many in this audience know, facts rarely get in the way of Jones Act critics, and we've seen that scenario play out again this year. Just a few months ago, anti-Jones Act amendments were introduced in Congress, ostensibly in response to gasoline prices. Figuratively, those proposals went down in flames, because most legislators understand that (a) the Jones Act essentially has no effect on gas prices and (b) weakening the law undoubtedly would have negative unintended consequences.

Still, these nonsensical amendments reminded us about the importance of helping educate politicians at every level of government.

In that vein, we look to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which, in its 2019 study for the Transportation Institute titled "Contributions of the Jones Act Shipping Industry to the U.S. Economy," found that the law helps maintain around 650,000 American jobs while contributing billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy. Another benefit that shouldn't be overlooked is that the Jones Act helps maintain a pool of well-trained, reliable, U.S. citizen mariners who are available to sail on American-flag military support ships during times of crisis.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils remain fully committed to backing the Jones Act and also to supporting cabotage laws around the world; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we belatedly but enthusiastically recognize the Jones Act's centennial. Here's to at least another 100 years for one of the most effective laws in U.S. history.

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