Martime Labor Remains United Against COVID-19
The presidents of America's deep sea labor unions delivered a unified message to members aimed at improving safety in the maritime workplace. They wrote that "vigilance and discipline" was necessary as employers may intervene "with reasonable or ineffective workplace policy; either way we will let them know that our contract rights remain in place. We understand the stress and anxiety of working in persistent and intensified danger... and support fair and common-sense safety practices ashore and at sea." They jointly recognized the dedication and perseverance of mariners, noting that "your efforts are best honored by ensuring your own safety and the safety of others aboard ship by getting vaccinated." The full letter, which is consistent with previous positions, can be accessed here.
What about the booster shot?
The subject of booster shots, now approved for the Pfizer vaccine, is still the subject of much debate. Here are the basics: CDC on who needs a booster shot? Generally speaking, most scientists do not recommend the booster shots yet for healthy people. All three vaccines have been remarkably effective even through the Delta wave. However, the CDC now recommends a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine only, six months after initial vaccination, for people who are 65 and older. Those aged 50 to 64 with health problems at high risk of severe disease are also eligible. Secondarily, the booster dose may be considered for people age 18 to 49 who have an underlying medical condition and those whose jobs may put them at higher risk of exposure, including health care workers. In echoes of the onset of the vaccination period, the list of workers does not yet include merchant mariners.
Health experts say that in terms of reducing infections and hospitalizations overall, the benefits of vaccinating people who are unvaccinated are much greater than booster doses. People with healthy immune systems who were fully vaccinated are still very well protected. They have a lower chance of being seriously ill, hospitalized, or dying of COVID-19.
Labor Beats Back Recall Effort in California
In a landslide victory of over thirty percent, Gov. Gavin Newsom resoundingly defeated an unnecessary and wasteful recall effort. Early on polls showed an extremely tight race, but once California's Unions became involved, the tide steadily turned against opponents of the minimum wage, prevailing wage, paid benefits, and the rights of working people. It wasn't about just the California Governor's job, all of our jobs were on the line, and every Union member across the country had something to lose if the anti-Union forces behind it got their way. But this time, when the dust settled, it was labor on top. For more see the next issue of the West Coast Sailors or visit the California Labor Federation updates page here or SUP political page here.
SUP Remembers September 11, 2001
Two decades ago, when the second plane hit the South Tower, the awkward question bubble of a terrible accident popped, and the attack horror slammed home with unmistakable clarity. The SUP honors the sacrifice of the victims and their families, the heroic efforts of the first responders, and all their pain and resilience. 9/11 forced a national transformation, and the U.S. merchant marine adapted to entirely new systems of security, credentialing, training and much more. Soon America's maritime Unions including the SUP would answer the call as we were plunged into the many missions of a long war. And on that tragic day in New York, boat operators were the first wave of maritime response, spontaneously delivering what became the largest waterborne rescue in history. Read more and watch the video about the Great Boatlift of 9/11 here.
President Biden's Labor Day Proclamation
President Joe Biden issued his Labor Day statement saying in part that "Hard-working Americans are the backbone of our country. As I have often said, the middle class built America — and unions built the middle class. Everything that supports a sustainable middle-class life was made possible by unions, and on Labor Day we honor all those workers — and their enduring movement — that keep our economy moving and make our Nation strong." Read the full statement here.
SUP Celebrates Labor Day 2021
The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific joins #EssentialAlways campaign to honor and thank frontline transportation workers on Labor Day
San Francisco, CA – This Labor Day the Sailors Union of the Pacific is proudly joining the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation to recognize and thank frontline transportation workers for their service and sacrifice, and remind Americans that mariners and maritime workers are #EssentialAlways.
During the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, SUP members were key to the American economy sailing the ships that carry and deliver goods – 90% of everything. With their work sailors saved lives, and America is reminded that the duties of all of transportation labor are essential always.
“SUP sailors were not working from home during this pandemic,” said President David Connolly. “They climbed up gangways in a storm of risk and hardship to keep foreign and domestic trade lanes open for American shipping. In commercial and government ships, they kept our troops supplied, our hospitals open, shelves stocked, and food on the table. As befits the finest traditions of the American Merchant Marine, they were generous and resolute heroes.”
COVID Surges on Delta Variant
August 2021 -- The highly transmissable Delta variant of the coronavirus has caused a sudden nationwide increase in cases, now the worst 2nd wave so far in the pandemic. The vaccine has effectively protected most Americans from both infection and severe illness, and thus the surge is most dangerous for the unvaccinated. Accordingly, CDC now says that given the danger, and with some transmission risk for the vaccinated, masks are advisable at any indoor public gathering. Above all, health experts cite vaccination is the single most effective thing a person can do to both stay individually safe and fight the surge.
Matson Agreement Ratified
July 2021 -- The SUP membership voted overwhelmingly to accept the recommendation of the SUP Negotiating Committee and ratified the new agreement with Matson Navigation Company. The five-year, concession-free deal is a milestone in the steady emergence of the Union from the many hardships of the pandemic. It includes upgrades in wages and conditions, improvements and maintenance of benefits, and builds job security. Much more detail is available in the President's Report and the West Coast Sailors.
Related to a recent trust meeting and part of the negotiating process with participating employers, the Union pension payout was recently increased by the Union to $55.00 per month to a maximum benefit of $2520.00. September checks will contain the full increase retroactive to July 1, 2021. There is also a 2% increase for existing pensioners. All other health and welfare benefits for active members and their dependents, as well as pensioners, were maintained. More to come including the full proration schedule in the July edition of the West Coast Sailors.
Celebrating July 4th, 1776 -- Independence Day
By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the United States Merchant Marine had already seen action. In 1775 the Continental Congress and the various colonies issued "Letters of Marque" to privately owned, armed merchant ships known as privateers, which were outfitted as warships to fight the enemy. Merchant seamen aboard those sailing ships interrupted the British supply chains all along the eastern seaboard of the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean. Predating the United States Coast Guard (1790), the United States Navy (1797) and even the first Congress of the United States (1789), the sailors of the U.S. Merchant Marine risked everything to establish and protect our fledgling maritime nation. Since then they have only confirmed that dedication, participating in every war, conflict and emergency, routinely making the supreme sacrifice in service to the nation. On July 4th, the Sailors' Union of the Pacific continues to recognizes that responsibility and honor that tradition.
SUP Negotiating Committee Reaches Tentative Agreement
The SUP Negotiating Committee reached a tentative agreement with Matson Navigation Co. in late June. With steady wage increases, maintenance of benefits, and new job security, the Committee said the five year deal represents a step forward for the Union. The concession-free terms come with separate increases for both existing and future pensioners, a new holiday, as well as a restriction to ship settlement that partially addresses the hardship of the pandemic. There were many other details and full report is coming in membership communications and the July issue of West Coast Sailors.
The U.S. Congress recently declared Juneteenth a national holiday, and President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. Now 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. It is a day of celebration but also a reminder of resilience and perserverence. Making Juneteenth a national holiday does not repair the generations of cruelty, the legacy of slavery, or the ongoing injustice of inequality, but is part of the national reckoning, and it now will be recognized as a paid holiday in the SUP contract with Matson starting on June 19, 2022.
President Biden Issues Proclamation on National Maritime Day, 2021
"We must protect those who protect our country..."
"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. For the full proclamation see the link 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.