This week, Congress took long overdue action to declare Juneteenth a national holiday, which was signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021. With sudden momentum and by unanimous consent, Congress ensured that June 19 will take its place among the other federal holidays such as Labor Day and the Fourth of July as one of the most momentous events in our history. The day has already been celebrated by millions, particularly Black Americans, for more than 156 years. "Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments … they embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away, they come to terms with the mistakes they’ve made. In remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger," Biden said at a signing ceremony at the White House attended by Vice President Kamala Harris, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other lawmakers. The day is of celebration but also reflection — a reminder of resilience and perserverence. Making Juneteenth a national holiday does not resolve or repair the generations of cruelty, but surely it is part of the national reckoning with the legacy of slavery, injustice, and ongoing inequality.
"We must protect those who protect our country..."
President Biden Issues Proclamation on National Maritime Day, 2021
"Since the first days of our Republic, America has been a proud maritime Nation. To this day, the United States Merchant Marine is a pillar of our country’s prosperity, playing a vital role in the maintenance of our economic and national security. Through every period of peace and war, our merchant mariners have been dedicated to protecting our freedom and promoting commerce. On National Maritime Day, we honor the steadfast commitment and sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the United States Merchant Marine, and recognize their essential role in safeguarding and strengthening our Nation.
Called the “fourth arm of defense” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, the Merchant Marine established itself as a cornerstone of sealift support for our Armed Forces, sailing through theaters of war to deliver troops and supplies while keeping vital ocean supply lines operating. The perseverance and dedication of the Merchant Marine contributed to the Allied victory even as they suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any of our military services.
Our merchant mariners also play a critical role in times of peace. They ensure our economic security by keeping our coastal and inland waterways open to trade, while United States-flagged ships operated by American merchant mariners transport goods across our country and all over the world. United States maritime freight operations helped support $5.4 trillion of economic activity among the many non-maritime industries that depend on the Merchant Marine for access to world markets. This movement of goods domestically and internationally continues to ensure America’s economic competitiveness throughout the world — growing jobs and supporting businesses of all sizes here at home.
Our merchant mariners are also critical to extending United States support and assistance to foreign nations and local communities hit hard by natural disasters and devastating crises. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, these brave men and women have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to fulfill their mission while keeping our Nation’s supply chains running.
The operation of the United States-flagged fleet is essential in contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and landside congestion, helping provide current and future generations with a more sustainable means of freight transportation. The industry is also working to develop and implement new technologies to continue reducing emissions — an effort my Administration is supporting through new international partnerships.
The maritime industry has long provided opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds — and the Merchant Marine continues to advance a more equitable industry in which barriers to entry and advancement are eliminated.
On this National Maritime Day, we honor the brave merchant mariners who provide critical support to our troops stationed in warzones, and who are essential to our Nation’s economic success. Recognizing the contributions of our merchant mariners, my Administration strongly supports protecting the Jones Act — the cornerstone of our domestic maritime industry. We must protect those who protect our country."
For the full proclamation see below:
House Lawmakers Call for Sealift Strategy -- House lawmakers are calling on U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Maritime Administration to create a sealift strategy amid decades of concerns over the capacity of the sealift fleet.
During a joint hearing between the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee and readiness subcommittee on May 18 called for a cohesive strategy to build up the sealift fleet. HASC readiness subcommittee chair Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said that a "comprehensive strategy" was necessary. Garamendi pointed to several components contributing to a strategy – the tanker security program Congress created, recent legislation mandating the U.S. military transport its cargo with U.S. planes and ships, and MARAD’s construction of National Security Multi-Mission Vessels – but said an overarching strategy is necessary. The HASC readiness chair suggested lawmakers hold a roundtable so Congress and officials from the Defense Department and Transportation Department can produce a cohesive strategy to incorporate into this year’s defense policy legislation and possibly the appropriations bill. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the ranking member of the seapower panel and the vice ranking member of HASC, agreed. Noting that the study has been "going on four years and we still haven’t gotten to the point of getting two additional ships in. And I can tell you by any other measure, in any other place, that would be unacceptable. And I would say it’s unacceptable here,” Wittman said. While Congress in the Fiscal Year 2021 policy bill authorized the Navy to purchase two used sealift vessels and in the FY 2021 appropriations bill allotted $60 million for those ships, the service has yet to get them on contract. Wittman also expressed concern over the recent decrease to the Ready Reserve Force, which went down to 41 ships from 46.
Pipeline Ransomware Attack Causes Fuel Shortages, Jones Act Waiver -- A shadowy criminal group of hackers attacked a major U.S. pipeline operator forcing a shutdown and fuel shortages along the U.S. East Coast. Panic buying and hoarding compounded supply disruptions, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ultimately granted a "temporary and targeted" waiver of the Jones Act, to mitigate the impact. The SUP and other maritime unions, noting that the law has faithfully served the nation's economic security for more than 100 years, called into question the necessity of the waiver. Jones Act tankers that were laid up on the East Coast appeared to escape the government's availability survey, and Unions promised to press for a full and detailed Congressional review of the emergency. For more see the May edition of the West Coast Sailors.
Vaccine Update: May 2021: The SUP and the MFOW will be holding a trial vaccination clinic in our hall in San Francisco. The vaccine that is available is the JNJ "one-shot" vaccine. It is being administered in coordination with a licensed health provider and vaccine clinician, Offshore Maritime, Limited, in coordination with Matson Navigation Co. The San Francisco clinic is scheduled for the noon at 450 Harrison St on May 14, 2021. Interested members who are crew, potential crew, or standby for Matson should contact SUP agents to register. Registration is simple but necessary. If enough members register in Los Angeles our hall in Wilmington will hold a clinic on Monday, May 17.
American Rescue Plan -- When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan there were many new and exisitng benefits that became available or were expanded. There is a quick summary on the benefits and how to access them on the SUP Welfare Plan page of this site at SUP Welfare Plan or here's the same file in pdf. ARP One Page Description.
CDC ISSUES POST-VACCINATION GUIDANCE: The good news is that the vaccines are very effective against the virus, especially against severe illness and death. Keeping in mind the definition of fully vaccinated (two weeks from second dose), the CDC has issued post-vaccination guidance for the fully vaccinated at When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated | CDC. For a deeper discussion of the science and background of the CDC guidance see the Science Brief: Background Rationale and Evidence for Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. There is still considerable risk and uncertainty, however, especially as it concerns the variants of the coronavirus. Early evidence shows that the vaccine is effective against some but not other variants. It is clear that other prevention steps help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed. The vaccines also appear to slow the spread of the disease, but there is much more study necessary on that. It is not yet definitively known how long COVID-19 vaccine protection lasts.
CHECK OUT THE SUP VACCINE PAGE: Members are advised to register for the vaccine at their state or county vaccination websites, their health care providers, and pharmacy chains and to continuously check eligibility and availability. Go to the SUP Vaccine Page for general information and state by state updates on COVID-19 Vaccines
Jones Act: BUY AMERICA INCLUDES THE JONES ACT: President Joe Biden expressed strong support for the Jones Act in one of his first actions as president. Coming after campaign promises that labor worked hard to secure, it was unequivocally pro-Jones Act and a bracing endorsement of the U.S. merchant marine. It will not only demand that the U.S. government adhere to the Jones Act, it will create a watchdog office to enforce the policy. The full text of the White House statement is here at the "Buy America" Excecutive Order. Perhaps the most emphatic statement for U.S. cabotage since the signing of the law over 100 years ago, there's more on the Jones Act page in the Political section.
PRO Act: LABOR REFORM ON THE TABLE: Congress introduced the Protect the Right to Organize Act, a sweeping set of labor reforms that will make life better for workers in hundreds of ways. Among the most important, it will make it easier to join a Union. President Biden came out strongly in favor. He said "Unions put power in the hands of workers, and lift up the middle class." See the video he made on the topic here.