One of America’s major labour unions has sent a letter to the US Congress defending the validity of the Jones Act in light of the Puerto Rico crisis and a surge of opposition to the act.
William Samuel, director of the Government Affairs Department at the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) signed off on the letter, which declares that the Jones Act “in no way impeded Puerto Rico’s recovery” in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
He added that: “News footage of containers piling up at the Port of San Juan offered visual proof that life-saving supplies were arriving hourly on Jones Act ships, as well as on foreign ships not covered by the Jones Act.”
The Jones Act, properly called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, requires all items transported between US seaports to be carried by US vessels, crewed by Americans.
Since the hurricane there has been a temporary waiver (since expired) of the Act’s provisions in Puerto Rico and bills introduced to both houses of Congress: the bill in the Senate calls for the permanent elimination of Jones Act rules for the island; the House bill calls for a five-year moratorium of same.
Also, the president of a prestigious US maritime college spoke up for the Act.
Rear Admiral Michael Alfultis, president of the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College in the Bronx, told a graduating class: “The Jones Act directly relates to jobs for SUNY Maritime College graduates. Also, the Department of Defence, the Navy and the Coast Guard recognize the Jones Act as important to our national defence.”
And in comments sent to elected officials, Rear Admiral Alfultis said: “The American maritime industry has played, and continues to play, a leading role in responding to the three recent hurricanes … A vote against the Jones Act is a vote to outsource American mariner and shipbuilding jobs and undermine national and homeland security.”