SUP Remembers and Honors Those That Died in Service to the Nation
Memorial Day got its start as "Decoration Day" after the Civil War, but for the U.S. Merchant Marine the idea stretches back to the birth of the nation. U.S. mariners have served the national defense since before Revolutionary War and in every major military action since then. Most famously, in 1941, when England was on the verge of being invaded by Germany, President Roosevelt convinced an isolationist U.S. Congress to pass the Lend Lease Bill to send food, oil and munitions to England to stave off an invasion. The U.S. Navy did not have cargo ships so the Maritime Commission was created to charter ships from commercial shipping companies to deliver the essential materiel in time to save England. The Lend Lease Bill was also deemed vital to the defense of our country.
After Pearl Harbor, every ship was put into action, including Matson and APL's luxury liners. But the new internationally known and hastily built Liberty ships delivered troops, planes, food, ammunition and fuel oil and became emblematic of the Merchant Marine at war. They suffered horrific casualties in the early years of WWII, as submarines targeted the Allied supply-chain in these slow moving ships.
SUP crews were attacked in the Far East, the West and East Coasts of America, in the Mediterranean and the Murmansk run, and rode at anchor off Normandy the night before D-Day. When censors lifted the informational blackout The New York Times noted it right away, reporting from London on Saturday, June 9,1944 that “D-day at the Normandy Beach head would not have been possible without the U.S. Merchant Marine. Now landed in France, it is permitted to indicate the part played by these intrepid civilians, whose deeds for the most part have gone unsung. It is not generally known that the Merchant Marine suffered the largest ratio of casualties of any branch of the services, and many of the names on the list are not classified “wounded” or “missing” in March 1941 because their graves are at the bottom of the oceans.”
Presidential Proclamation on Maritime Day 2022
President Biden issued his maritime proclamation from the White House giving broad and powerful recognition to the merchant mariners and the U.S. Merchant Marine. Here's an excerpt:
"From sea to shining sea, whether in still or raging waters, America has always been a Nation of maritime travel. Across our 25,000 miles of waterways and over 360 commercial ports, the United States Merchant Marine is integral to our Nation’s prosperity. From helping move goods throughout the supply chain to supporting our troops wherever they are deployed, the Merchant Marine plays a vital role in the economic security and defense of our country. On National Maritime Day and every day, we honor the Merchant Marines for their service and sacrifice and acknowledge their crucial role in protecting our Nation’s security and commerce.
Today, our Merchant Marine remains inextricably linked to our national and economic security and competitiveness. Merchant mariners’ legacy of perseverance and dedication is carried on by today’s civilian mariners. As tyranny and violence again cause the tragic loss of innocent lives and senseless destruction in Europe, our merchant mariners have answered the call of duty by crewing vessels of our United States Ready Reserve, moving vital military cargo to help the Ukrainian people in their defense of freedom.
We also salute the remarkable efforts of our entire maritime industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They put the well-being of the American people first, risking their lives to ensure that essential cargoes of medical supplies and personal protective equipment were delivered to those in need across our Nation.
As we continue to build a better America, our Merchant Marine plays a pivotal role... Read the full statement here.
Senators Seek to Undermine Ship American Cargo Preference Rules
U.S. maritime labor lookouts sounded the alarm as Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) launched Senate Concurrent Resolutions 37 and 38, Congressional amendments that would eliminate the Ship American “cargo preference” rules. Attached to a seemingly innocuous Ukraine supplemental funding bill, these rules help form the bedrock of US-flag shipping sealift capability. It requires that a certain minimum of civilian and defense taxpayer-funded cargoes be transported on U.S -flag (American) ships – owned and crewed by Americans – to assure that commercial and defense materiel (food, fuel, ammunition, vehicles/aircraft) is securely and competently transported in times of war or national emergency.
Waivers for unavailable ships, or even unreasonably high prices, are explicitly authorized. Otherwise, the law—and common sense—dictates that American taxpayer-funded projects should benefit American workers and American companies, similar to the “Buy American” laws. For the U.S.-flag merchant marine to continue to move 90% of military goods during war, the industry needs cargo preference during peacetime. Now, during a global supply chain crisis, and with Russian and Chinese interference in shipping, ceding our own US-flag shipping capacity to foreign interests is offensive to the American sealift mariners that have served the nation without fail since its birth. To participate in the campaign against this attack, let your Senator know here! For more see the May edition of West Coast Sailors.
Workers Memorial Day, April 28, 2022
The SUP stops to mourn the sailors lost at sea, and those lost or injured on the job everywhere. On this Workers Memorial Day, we join their survivors, their families and shipmates, to turn pain into purpose. As President Biden proclaimed in his address: "Their memories command us to continue our work toward a future in which no one has to risk their life for a paycheck." The COVID-19 pandemic devastated working families and from the outset the SUP and its allies have acted to demand protections on the job from this highly contagious virus. We spoke out against unsafe conditions and we won emergency safety protections. The work is far from over but we still steadily demand that workplace safety agencies and all our employers remain accountable to the fundamental right of every worker to a safe job.
COVID Lockdown in China Compounds Ship Congestion
A huge and lasting lockdown to fight against the latest coronavirus surge in China has resulted in the delays and diversion of thousands of ships. Chinese authorities say ports such as Shanghai remain open but in a "closed loop" system, where port workers are sealed off from the rest of the city. Yet containers are stacking up mainly due to a severe shortage of trucks, and the few remaining trucks entering or exiting the port areas are delayed by testing, reporting, and other problems. The net effect of the clogged supply chain is ever-increasing delays. Anchorages are full and ships are being diverted to other ports where there are similar problems. Economic effects include factory closures, higher rates, less dependable schedules, and spreading congestion that could result in another supply-chain shock wave. This image of the approach to Shanghai, reduced to include only containerships and tankers, tells the story in visual terms.
UK Ferry Operator Fires 800 seafarers in 30 minutes by video
In an one of the most outrageous outsourcing maneuvers ever, the UK ferry operator P & O fired its entire British maritime workforce in 30 minutes by video call. The company is attempting to replace the long-time union members with outsourced workers from other nations via a crewing agency. The SUP condemns the action for its cynical breach of trust and potential violation of law. The President of the ITF Paddy Crumlin called it "brutal shock tactics" and return to "an outmoded and discredited management style." The UK authorities opened a criminal investingation into the mass firings and ITF Secretary General Steve Cotton said "My msessage to all transport workers is that unless we act, this could happen to you." Vigorous objections arose from maritime labor around the world, including the Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and the SUP, standing in solidairty with sailors represented by the RMT and Nautilus. Sign on to the global notice of protest here.
Full Funding for Maritime Security Program
Congress has approved, and President Biden has signed into law, the Fiscal Year 2022 spending package that will fully fund both the Maritime Security Program and a new Tanker Security Program. The MSP is funded at $318 million, which provides a $5.3 million stipend per ship, and the TSP is funded at $60 million, providing each vessel with $6 million. The legislation also includes $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Legislators moved rapidly on the bipartisan legislation, which passed the House of Representatives late on March 16, less than a day after it was introduced, and cleared the Senate 24 hours later. The TSP is a planned fleet of 10 commercial U.S.-flag petroleum product tankers to support America’s strategic defense needs by reducing the military’s reliance on foreign-flag vessels.
U.S. Maritime Labor Stands Up For Ukraine
In a letter to President Biden, America's seagoing unions condemned the attack on Ukraine and pledged their full support for freedom and democracy around the world. The Russian invasion of that country has drawn widespread condemnation and poses the most serious threat to U.S. friends and allies in Europe since World War II. It has also called the American military and its support infrastructure to attention. Speaking on behalf of American mariners, the Union presidents announced their readiness to provide the sealift services they are typically called on to provide, by long history and proud tradition, in times of war and national emergency. The full text of the letter can be view here.
USNS SISLER Arrives in Norway
The MSC ship USNS SISLER arrived in Norway as part of an allied joint exercise called Operation Cold Response 22. The ship departed the pre-positioning home port of Diego Garcia in January and arrived in Hammernesodden Norway on February 14 after a brief logistics stop in Spain at Rota. The SISLER carries cargo in support of US Marine Expeditionary Force II. Operation Cold Response will include a total of 28 nations and approximately 35,000 troops including 14,000 land troops, 13,000 sailors and navy personnel, while the remaining 8,000 participants are air force troops and various staff officers based at various military bases in Norway. SISLER is crewed on deck by the SUP.
U.S. Maritime Unions Object to Proposed Caribbean Second Register
Maritime labor unions joined together to both expose and denunciate a dangerous U.S. flag-of-convenience scheme based in the Virgin Islands. Simply put, it is a runaway flag assistance initiative with the same race-to-the-bottom economics that has already nearly destroyed the U.S. flag merchant marine.
The heads of the seagoing Unions said the proposal, which would allow for the operation of vessels with foreign mariners under an open registry that claims to be part of the United States but would escape most U.S. regulation, is "an affront to the American mariners who have always put themselves in harm’s way whenever called upon by our nation." And along with harm to American economic security, the decimated national flag fleet that inevitably follows flag-of-convenience second registers puts the nation's military logistical support at risk.
At a time when Americans are keenly aware of the fragility of the foreign components of the supply chain the Unions called out even the talk of such a scheme as hazardous to the nation. “If the supply chain crisis has taught us anything it is that we, as a country, must begin to reverse the dangerous reliance we have on foreign sources for goods and for shipping services. Increasing America’s dependence on foreign owned and foreign manned vessels will exacerbate the current situation and will not somehow magically enhance America’s maritime posture."
“Open registries exist so that shipowners can increase their profits by avoiding the same rules, regulations, tax obligations and manning requirements that attach to a national flag fleet. This latest effort is nothing more than an exercise in labor arbitrage designed to generate registry fees and to enrich foreign shipowners at the expense of American workers and America’s national interests."
To read the statement in its entirety click here.
HELP ON THE WAY: Matson sends Kamokuiki to Tonga
SUP sailors will be among the first to deliver aid to tsunami-torn Tonga. Carrying critical supplies such as bottled water aboard the Kamokuiki, the Company said it expects delivery in the Tongan port of Nuku’alofa on January 31. Tonga was near the massive underwater eruption of a volcano that resulted in a tsunami that caused waves and minor damage as far away as Santa Cruz, California. When the waters receded the island was covered in a blanket of volcanic ash. Then the first aid from the Australian military was turned away due to positive tests for coronavirus among the crew. Kamokuiki departed Auckland with a diversion to Guam and then Tonga but is then expected to return to its new CAX service between China and Auckland, NZ.
Free At Home COVID Test Kits Available for Order
COVID test kits are now being provided for free by the federal government and can be ordered for delivery by the U.S. Postal Service to every U.S. residence at this link. The major health Insurers are also required to reimburse their members the documented cost of any test kit bought "over the counter" or online by individuals. Kaiser Permanente has its claim form here.
SUP Provides New EAP Benefit
A new Vendor for the SUP Welfare Plan's "Employee Assistance Provider" services (EAP) was contracted by the Trustees of the SUP Welfare Plan to begin on December 1, 2021. The benefit was previously administered by Human Behavior Associates and will now be managed by Uprise Health, Inc. The EAP benefits are avialble to all employees and their families at no cost. Uprise offers a confidential advice and support program along with a broad range of physical and mental health services. Those services include:
Confidential Counseling: up to 3 face-to-face, video or telephonic counseling sessions for relationship and family issues, stress, anxiety, and other common challenges.
Online Peer Support Groups: Online support groups for addiction recovery, anxiety, depression, frontline workers, grief and loss, parenting and more.
24 hour Crisis Help: toll-free access for you or a family member experiencing a crisis.
To contact Uprise health call 866-949-3667. There is also a digitally enabled platform available at Uprise Health that includes a lot of detailed information and additional benefits. Or you can download the Uprise Health app at Google Play or the Apple App Store. Active members who are enrolled in medical coverage through the Plan or another group health plan have additional access to a Supplemental Substance Abuse Benefit.
Maritime Labor Declares Fresh Commitment to Safe Workplaces
In another joint message the seven presidents of the U.S. maritime labor unions, representing the majority of bluewater U.S. mariners, reinforced their collective commitment to safe workplaces at sea and ashore, free of fear, harassment, bullying and any kind of assault. They all began a thorough but speedy re-examination to update policies and practices that support protection, mutual respect and education in their memberships. "Turning a blind eye is not acceptable. All seafarers must be committed to active opposition to any type of harassment, bullying or discriminatory behavior. It is our collective duty to protect and respect our shipmates. As maritime professionals and decent human beings, we must look out for one another," they wrote. The complete letter can be accessed here.
Maritime 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?
Booster shots, now approved for the Pfizer, Moderna, and JNJ vaccine, were once the subject of debate and designated only for the high-risk population. But now they are seen as critically important for all adults to maintain protection against infection and hospitalization. Again, all adults are now approved for booster shots provided six months have elapsed from the initial series. The CDC has revised guidance on booster information page linked below. All three vaccines have been remarkably effective even through the Delta wave. The CDC continues to advise that vaccinations remain the best method of fighting against the coronavirus and its latest mutations.
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.