By Mike Hall
AFL-CIO Senior Writer
Right-wing radio gabbers, anti-worker Republican politicians and conservative think tanks are at it again. This time they charge that the Jones Act, a U.S. maritime law, is the culprit standing in the way of Gulf clean-up efforts. The Jones Act says that ships operating between U.S. domestic ports—for example from New York to Miami—be crewed, built, owned and flagged American. Most if not all other major maritime nations have laws that basically require the same thing.
Those behind the campaign attacking the Jones Act have two aims: To discredit the federal response to the disaster and to attack unions. They falsely state that the Jones Act is keeping ships that fly foreign flags from the Gulf operations and that the Obama administration has turned away offers of aid from many nations because the maritime unions want to skim up all the disaster-related profits.
Not true. In fact, the Obama administration has not turned down any offers of assistance because of the Jones Act. According to FactCheck.Org:
The Jones Act has yet to be an issue in the response efforts. The Deepwater Horizon response team reported in a June 15 press release that there are 15 foreign flagged ships currently participating in the oil spill cleanup. None of them needed a waiver because the Jones Act does not apply.
The assertion that Obama has invoked the Jones Act on behalf of maritime unions is the “the most ridiculous” of the Jones Act lies, says Seafarers (SIU) President Michael Sacco. Not only did it never happen, he says,
it is offensive for anyone to suggest that American maritime labor would hinder cleanup operations in the Gulf, in any way, shape or form….In those cases where no U.S.-flag tonnage is available, our industry has said from the beginning that we will not stand in the way of Jones Act waivers intended to facilitate the cleanup.
Backing up Sacco, McClatchy News Service reported yesterday that the State Department
announced that new offers of aid would be accepted from 12 foreign countries and international organizations, but spokesman P.J. Crowley noted that booms donated by Mexico, Norway and Brazil had been in use since May 11, and that 24 foreign vessels from nine foreign countries already have been helping with the cleanup.
The Associated Press reported June 18 that while U.S. disaster aid is almost always free of charge, other nations expect the United States to pay for help.
Reports claiming that the federal government has refused help are not only incorrect—foreign assistance has been utilized—but are also misleading: purchasing resources and expertise is vastly different from accepting “foreign aid.
“These offers are not typically offers of aid,” said Lt. Erik Halvorson, a Coast Guard spokesman. “Normally, they are offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government.
Why are Republican politicians and lawmakers once again let fiction trump fact? Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) says the attacks on the Jones Act smack of
pushing a political agenda than any genuine interest in helping Gulf coast communities with their cleanup.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill to repeal the Jones Act. Edward Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) says that repealing the Jones Act
would mean the elimination of hundreds of thousands of good jobs in maritime, longshore, ship building and other vital industries. The McCain bill would threaten national security by depleting the pool of American vessels and skilled mariners who can be deployed during times of war and military conflict.
This legislation would open our waterways to foreign entities that don’t employ U.S. workers, don’t pay taxes to our treasury and do not operate under our safety and security regime.
McCain, like all the other Senate Republicans, is blocking the jobs bill that would create critically-needed employment for America’s jobless workers. Now, on the eve of the the nation’s celebration of America, he wants to actively slash good U.S. jobs as well.
Re-Posted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog
Posted July 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm, in From AFL-CIO