Today's Fair Shots - September 29th, 2017
1-No, Waiving Jones Act Won't Work; It Has Nothing to Do With Getting Goods Into the Hands of Puerto Ricans After Hurricane Maria
2-Bipartisan Congressional Statement Acknowledges Puerto Rico Has Plenty of Supplies on Docks, But Infrastructure Is Broken
3-U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Another Case That Could Decimate Public Employee Unions
4-Public Employee Unions Blast Janus Case as Blatant Politics
5-Louis-Dreyfus Announces She Has Breast Cancer, Thanks Union for Coverage
1) When major disaster strikes, the political bull's-eyes on the Jones Act light up.
With three hurricanes having inflicted devastating damage in a matter of weeks, foreign shipping companies that would love to do away with requirements for use of domestic ships and the good jobs that go with them are running wild. But as in the past, the long-term consequences of suspending or weakening the Jones Act would be terrible for working people.
Among other things, the Jones Act provides protections to mariners who used to face near-slavery conditions while working aboard merchant vessels. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the Jones Act may be ancient as laws go, but it is no less relevant today than overtime laws, Social Security and other pro-worker laws that have passed the test of time.
The rally cry of waiving - or, worse, repealing - the Jones Act isn't going to do much of anything for storm victims in Texas, Florida or Puerto Rico. But it has the potential to diminish the livelihoods of working people whose operations on the seas benefit all of us.
In Puerto Rico, a waiver is not going to speed relief. Don't take it from me. The Texas labor movement is blessed to have a robust Seafarers Union and an outstanding spokesman for the mariners' trade in Dean Corgey. Corgey, Vice President of the Seafarers International Union and member of the Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board, posted a column in the Houston Chronicle attacking the myths and explaining why the Jones Act remains as relevant as ever.
Corgey told us that in Puerto Rico, where the Hurricane Maria damage is horrific, 6,000 containers are sitting on the dock and in full warehouses. The problem is not an inability to use foreign vessels, but the damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure that makes distribution of goods extraordinarily difficult.
I am passing along Corgey's excellent column in its entirety. The essay touches on why treating seafarers as professionals has actually made our nation safer and our disaster responses better:
A founding father of our union was a mariner, a Norwegian immigrant and labor activist named Andrew Furuseth. He lived in a time, much like today, of social, political and economic upheaval at the end of the Gilded Age of the robber barons and the dawn of the Progressive Era of great reformers such as President Theodore Roosevelt.
At the turn of the 20th century, seamen had few legal rights and suffered abuse unimaginable today, including inhumane conditions, forced labor, beatings and imprisonment. In 1915, Furuseth testified before Congress and spoke these immortal (in our industry) words: "You can put me in jail but you cannot give me narrower quarters than as a seaman I have always had. You cannot give me coarser food than I have always eaten. You cannot make me lonelier than I have always been."
This powerful statement helped give birth to the American maritime labor movement and the eventual passage of the Seamen's Act of 1915 and the Jones Act of 1920. Furuseth is credited as a driving force behind these bills, with the support of Sen. Wesley Jones, R-Wash., Robert M. La Follette, the great progressive Republican senator from Wisconsin, and President Woodrow Wilson. The Seamen's Act established basic working and living conditions for merchant mariners, and the Jones Act implemented a workers' compensation system for seamen similar to the railroads. More importantly, the Jones Act introduced cabotage provisions requiring for the first time that domestic cargo be carried on vessels that are owned, built and crewed by Americans. These laws changed forever American seagoing life and transformed our domestic maritime industry into an innovative, cost-effective and secure transportation system that bolsters our nation's security.
Leaders from both sides of the aisle understood the importance of maintaining a fleet of vessels to provide good jobs and economic security in peacetime and a pool of qualified personnel to man those vessels and defend the homeland in a time of war. The Jones Act always has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress, the White House and the military and has been instrumental in the massive sealifts of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the humanitarian efforts in Haiti and Japan. In each instance, the U.S. Merchant Marine has never missed a sailing and has performed with distinction and professionalism in the face of sacrifice and peril.
Texas has a proud maritime history and many know that a major factor in the victory of World War II was Texas crude refined in Port Arthur, Houston and Corpus Christi and transported to the European and Pacific theaters on Jones Act tankers crewed by fearless American sailors. Many of these ships were torpedoed and the crews paid the ultimate price. We were able to win by maintaining a steady supply of fuel as the enemy ran out, thanks to the Jones Act.
Texas is America's premier maritime state, with more tonnage moving through our ports than any other - much of it on Jones Act vessels. Our state has benefited from Jones Act-related investments by shipowners, and many thousands of Texans depend on Jones Act-related employment, both at sea and ashore. To his credit, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is an ardent supporter of the Jones Act, as was President George W. Bush.
On the national level, the Jones Act fleet consists of 40,000 vessels engaged in domestic waterborne commerce representing an investment of $30 billion. The industry moves a billion tons of cargo and 100 million passengers yearly, generating $100 billion in annual economic output. This has created 500,000 American jobs with a yearly payroll of $29 billion and $11 billion in taxes per annum. The Jones Act fleet provides reliable service to markets such as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which depend on waterborne commerce for their very existence.
Our domestic fleet is invaluable to our homeland security and border protection; our companies and crews are regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard and by federal law enforcement agencies. Our domestic maritime industry is clearly vital to our national, economic and homeland security.
Unfortunately, we have recently seen a disturbing trend of anti-Jones Act rhetoric based on false information, including calls for blanket waivers and outright repeal. It seemed to begin with the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, continued with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve waivers in 2011 and the politicization of cabotage in Puerto Rico and the current efforts of the American Petroleum Institute to seek waivers to move fuel from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. In each case, the facts do not bear out the claims of those who seek to destroy a law that has served this state and country well.
In this time of economic uncertainty, high unemployment and threats of terrorism, we should be talking about expanding, not chipping away at, the Jones Act. Real opportunities for growth are on the horizon for the domestic maritime industry. Refineries are closing in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, St. Croix and Aruba. Refining capacity is being concentrated in Texas and Louisiana, with Houston being the leader. Domestic crude and natural gas from shale operations and the eventual Keystone Pipeline will produce increased prospects for coastwise movements of refined products and LNG to the East Coast and Caribbean.
Serious consideration is being given to the creation of a "marine highway" network to distribute containers coming from an expanded Panama Canal in a safe, efficient and green manner to coastal destinations. This all equates to good jobs that are sorely needed by young folks graduating from maritime training facilities and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
For nearly 100 years, labor and management, industry and government, and Democrats and Republicans have respected the vision of Andrew Furuseth that seamen are entitled to basic rights - and among the most basic of rights is the right to a job. As Furuseth liked to say, "Freedom and equality is a flower that grows in strife and amongst danger." We are certainly in strife and amongst danger, so maybe it's time to let the flower we know as the Jones Act grow. That will be good for Texas and good for America.
2) The Seafarers Union passed along a bipartisan congressional news release noting a Jones Act waiver is not necessary to the relief effort in Puerto Rico. The impulse to help is totally praiseworthy, but real help in this case has nothing to do with who is making deliveries by sea:
Today, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and John Garamendi (D-CA), Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, raised concerns over the Trump Administration's decision to issue a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act to allegedly improve the flow of relief shipments into Puerto Rico. The Jones Act requires that goods traveling between U.S. ports of call be carried on U.S.-made and U.S.-flagged ships and manned by American crews. Contrary to many published reports, adequate domestic shipping capability exists, and waiving the Jones Act requirement will not speed up relief for Puerto Rico.
"Shipping carriers that comply with the Jones Act have more than enough capacity for a robust relief effort for Puerto Rico," said Ranking Member Garamendi. "Getting relief to the island isn't the problem. The challenge is in getting relief off the docks. Right now, 6,000 containers full of everything the island needs are languishing on the docks in Puerto Rico because there are no trucks available to distribute them. The entire American maritime industry has done outstanding work to coordinate with local governments to provide relief. The Jones Act is essential to maintain a robust shipbuilding industry and sealift capacity, and waiving it will not help solve Puerto Rico's problems."
"The Jones Act is about making sure our nation has the domestic capability to move troops and supplies in times of war," said Chairman Hunter. "It's about ensuring that our country maintains a strong manufacturing base with good well-paying jobs. Foreign and corporate interests have long opposed the Jones Act and have spread fake news that the law is a hindrance to Puerto Rico's recovery efforts. What is clear from our listening session this morning is that Jones Act vessels can provide the needed capacity to bring aid to Puerto Rico, and they stand willing and able to do so. Waiving the Jones Act will do nothing to speed up much needed aid to Puerto Rico's residents. I hope the Administration will reconsider the facts and rescind its temporary waiver."
3) In what has to be the least surprising development ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court's new term ("First Monday in October"), the justices have agreed to hear a repeat version of a case promoted by right-wing interests that seeks to decimate public employee unions.
Based on the 4-4 tie vote that occurred in the Friedrichs case, the Janus case is likely to end differently after the controversial addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court. The case will decide whether public-sector unions in 23 states may require employees to pay fees for collective bargaining.
The case won't affect Texas or other so-called "right to work" states directly, because virtually all working people in these states cannot be required to pay union dues. But it could affect Texas indirectly if national unions that operate here are weakened.
Elections matter. If President Obama's choice to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia had received consideration from the GOP Senate majority or if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, the prospects in the Janus case would be far better:
The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a case that could deal a crushing blow to organized labor.
It was one of 11 cases the justices added to the court's docket from the roughly 2,000 petitions seeking review that had piled up during the court's summer break.
In the labor case, the court will consider whether public-sector unions may require workers who are not members to help pay for collective bargaining. If the court's answer is no, unions would probably lose a substantial source of revenue.
The question was before the justices last year in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and they seemed poised to rule against the unions when the case was argued in January 2016. But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia the next month resulted in a 4-to-4 deadlock.
That may have given the unions only a brief reprieve. Justice Scalia's replacement, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, has voted consistently with the court's more conservative members and is likely to supply a fifth vote against the unions.
A ruling allowing workers to refuse to pay the fees would be the culmination of a decades-long campaign by conservative groups aimed at weakening unions that represent public employees.
The new case concerns Mark Janus, who works for the state government in Illinois and is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He sued the union, saying he does not agree with its positions and should not be forced to pay fees to support its work.
An Illinois law requires government workers who choose not to join a union to "pay their proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and conditions of employment." The Supreme Court has said that such laws are constitutional.
In a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court made a distinction between two kinds of compelled payments. It said workers need not pay for the political activities of unions, like campaign spending, as that would violate their First Amendment rights.
But it is constitutional, the court added, to require nonmembers to help pay for the union's collective bargaining efforts to prevent freeloading and to ensure "labor peace."
The challengers in the new case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, No. 16-1466, asked the court to overrule the Abood decision. All compulsory fees, they argued, violate the First Amendment because the subjects of labor negotiations between unions and the government are all matters of public concern.
Unions reject the First Amendment arguments, saying that collective bargaining is different from political activity. They said the plaintiffs were seeking to reap the benefits of such bargaining without paying their fair share of the cost.
Union leaders reacted to the court's decision to hear the case with dismay bordering on alarm. "This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor," Lee Saunders, the president of the union in the case, said in a statement.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/us/politics/supreme-court-will-hear-case-on-mandatory-fees-to-unions.html
4) A joint statement by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union responds to the Supreme Court's decision to take the case:
WASHINGTON - The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU - the nation's four largest public sector unions - in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:
The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.
This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, CEO of the corporate-backed, State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a 'mortal blow' and 'defund and defang' America's unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.
"This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings." - Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME
"My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state's most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities." - Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
"Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people-and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers' freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers' clout.
"These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control-a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that's been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff's argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench." - Randi Weingarten, President, AFT
"My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students' basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district's desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school's water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers' rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus." - Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.
"For decades billionaires have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people. As the nation's largest union, this fight not only hurts our members, but also the families of the children we educate. The NEA won't back down from this fight just as we've never backed down from any other attack on our students." - Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA
"More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community." - Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD
The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won't let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities." - Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU
"By sticking together in our union, we've lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we'll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That's why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress.
But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services." - Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.
5) Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a six-time Emmy Award winner, announced today that she has breast cancer, then used the occasion to call for universal health care.
Louis-Dreyfus took note of the outstanding insurance coverage she has as a result of her membership in a strong labor union, AP reports. Of course, all of us at the Texas AFL-CIO wish our Union Sister the best:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus says she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The star of "Veep" and "Seinfeld" posted word of her illness Thursday on social media. A spokeswoman for Louis-Dreyfus confirmed the posts were authentic.
On her Twitter account, the actress wrote that one in eight women get breast cancer.
"The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality," she tweeted.