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SOLIDARITY ALERT: Congress Takes Aim at Jones Act Protections for Unionized Maritime Workers - IFPTE Weighs-In

October 5, 2017

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the many working families represented by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), we urge you to oppose S. 1894, legislation that would exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act. It is truly regrettable that some in Congress are attempting to erode Jones Act protections for American workers and our domestic shipbuilding industry during such a trying time for the people of Puerto Rico.

Unfortunately, there are several misleading assertions being falsely advanced by long-time opponents of the Jones Act. IFPTE would like to take this opportunity to dispel a few of them:

  • Foreign vessels are prevented from reaching Puerto Rico – This claim is unfounded, as there is a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that noted that two-thirds of the vessels serving Puerto Rico were foreign flagged. What is true is that American ships compete directly with foreign shipping industries from around the world when it comes servicing Puerto Rico;

  • A waiver for Puerto Rico would speed up delivery of supplies and goods – Actually, the opposite is true, as the domestic Maritime industry and their unions contend that a waiver would backlog the current system that is already overwhelmed in efficiently distributing supplies throughout Puerto Rico. The problem is not shipping supplies to Puerto Rico, rather it is the many road blocks, lack of equipment and trucks, and communications challenges that are making it difficult to get the critical supplies throughout the island; and

  • Costs for imports to Puerto Rico are twice as high compared to neighboring islands due to the Jones Act- There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, some estimate that it is 40% more expensive to ship goods from the U.S. mainland to the U.S. Virgin Islands where the Jones Act does not apply compared to Puerto Rico.
In fact, Jones Act vessels have answered the call quickly and efficiently responding to the needs of the people of Puerto Rico. For example, immediately following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, a U.S. container ship arrived at the island with over 35 million pounds of cargo, while U.S. maritime companies have transported upwards of 9,500 containers of goods and supplies to the island so far. And, even before the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, American maritime workers and the companies they work for stored upwards of 3,000 containers of goods in terminals.

American Maritime Partnership Chairman, Thomas Allegretti, recently stated that, “A steady stream of additional supplies keep arriving in Puerto Rico on American vessels and on international ships from around the world. The problem now is distributing supplies from Puerto Rico’s ports inland by surface transportation.” The American labor movement, which recently transported over 300 skilled union members from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico to help get those supplies and food to the people, agrees with Mr. Allegretti and is stepping up to the plate to help. Instead of trying to achieve an ideological driven vendetta against the Jones Act, IFPTE encourages its opponents to do the same.

Please oppose S. 1894.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to call IFPTE Legislative Director, Matt Biggs, at (202) 239-4880.


Gregory J. Junemann

IFPTE's Letter to the Senate Opposing S.1894

Read Jimmy Hart's Letter to Congress (Metal Trades Department)

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