Recently I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a couple of postings by AFT President Randi Weingarten regarding the Trump administration’s absolute failure in responding to Hurricane Maria and how we can help the families who are still struggling a month after. And she is fired up enough to be pushing a union-led effort to get more water to the island. WOW:
Which of course made me wonder — did Randi mention any of this while she was at the AFL-CIO meeting yesterday?
I only ask because the AFL-CIO has been actively lobbying every member of congress to continue keeping the Jones Act in place — an old-school piece of maritime law that is causing increased suffering and death for families in Puerto Rico.
For those of you not living and breathing the inside baseball of the recovery effort — here’s a quick look at the Jones Act:
In the aftermath of hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is dealing with horrifying devastation. One thing that could help with a recovery that’s bound to be long and difficult is opening the ports to emergency-supply-laden foreign boats. Plenty such boats come and go to the US that could be deployed for that task, but there’s a catch: They’re not allowed to unload their wares on the island.
Under a long-standing US law, the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, all the transportation of goods between US ports has to be done by US vessels exclusively. This means that ships from other countries can’t transport supplies between US harbors. That limits the number of available boats, even in unusual, extreme situations such as what Puerto Rico is experiencing now.
In the wake of past natural disasters, the US has temporarily lifted the rule, known as the Jones Act after its sponsor, Senator Wesley Jones. The Department of Homeland Security did that earlier this month in response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hammered the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.
Ironically, here is the email sent by the AFL-CIO to Democratic members of the US Senate the same day the article above was written:
From: Jeffrey Pavlak <[email protected]>
Date: September 26, 2017 at 2:16:14 PM EDT
Subject: Labor – Jones Act
In response to some inquiries, I wanted to shoot you a brief note (I’m traveling, so I’m a little suboptimal at the moment).
Right not, Puerto Rico is in the midst of a humanitarian disaster from storm damage and the longer-term issues related to mainland indifference to the people of Puerto Rico.
However, the Jones has not been the probably either currently or over the long-term. Some in Congress are asking for a blanket one-year waiver of the Jones Act from Puerto Rico. This is not an appropriate response to the current predicament and ignores the actual distribution based needs facing Puerto Rico today. For these reasons, we do not support any blanket 1-year waiver that has been proposed.
Under current law, the DHS is able to waive the Jones Act in the “interest of national defense (46 USC 501).” Currently, temporary waivers have been granted related to the storms that damaged Texas and Florida to help those states recover and allow adequate vessels to service distribution concerns related to oil.
In Puerto Rico, the current problem is not access to vessels or goods to the island, but rather the distribution of goods around the island because of the serious infrastructure problems created by the storm. In short, the Jones Act is not the issue precluding the internal movement of goods/supplies, rather it is internal non-Jones Act related storm damage.
The DHS has not granted a waiver related to Puerto Rico because the Jones Act is not an issue. Specifically, the DHS has said:
- that “US-flag vessel capacity is sufficient for both fuel and humanitarian shipments;”
- that “port capacity offload” is the real problem, which is an internal infrastructure issue completely unrelated to the Jones Act; and
- that the “situation in Puerto Rico is much different” than those related vessel capacity for FL and TX.
Because the Jones Act is not the issue in Puerto Rico, it would be imprudent at this time to grant a 1 year waiver. We are monitoring the situation and if a waiver is needed current law does provide for such a mechanism of resolution. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out.
You’ll note that this email came before the Trump administration allowed for a 10 day waiver of the Jones Act, which did absolutely nothing to help. Do you think the AFL-CIO has let up their lobbying effort to protect the Jones Act? That would be a big fat NO.
So, I’m sorry. Maybe some folks can attempt to tap dance their way into excusing this kind of crap, but honestly, I’m done. The hypocrisy is exhausting when it comes to these folks. I’m no longer interested in hearing from those who push the narrative that unions are standing up for the most vulnerable among us.
This is yet another example where their principle of protecting themselves comes before anything else. Those of us who work on the front lines of fighting for justice and equity for children in the education space have had a front row seat to this behavior in our classrooms, in our school districts and unfortunately in our statehouse.
Unions are out for one thing. The best interest of unions. There are no exceptions.
Not people. Not children. Not families. Not Puerto Ricans.
So please, Randi — save it. Come and talk to me about your lofty moral principles from your moral high horse once you folks figure out if you actually have any.
As Originally posted in EduMom
Keri began her career as an award-winning journalist and radio broadcaster, recognized for her political reporting both nationally and internationally and host of a popular daily political talk show and newspaper column in Southeastern Massachusetts. She then continued her career in advocacy as a long-time labor activist, communicator and organizer with the world’s largest local labor union, 1199SEIU, taking on major campaigns across the country. After facing struggles navigating the education system with her own children, she then turned her focus to education reform to help families across the Commonwealth to find their voice at the table and to put kids back at the center of the conversation about education.
Keri currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the advisory board of Democrats for Education Reform. She has also worked as a senior advisor on dozens of Massachusetts nonprofit, ballot-issue and political organizing campaigns, and serves as a Justice of the Peace for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
A Secular Franciscan, she also devotes much of her free time to volunteer work at Saint Anthony’s Shrine in Boston where you can catch her serving at the [7:30] a.m. mass on Sunday mornings.