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Setting the Record Straight on the Jones Act

Washington, DC — Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement in response to legislation (S.1894) introduced by Sen. McCain to permanently repeal the Jones Act as it relates to Puerto Rico:

“The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is being used by long-time opponents of the Jones Act to attack a law that promotes U.S. jobs and is critical to our national security. Damaging misinformation is being peddled about the Jones Act in an effort to weaken the law and advance the financial interests of foreign shipping companies.

“The claim that the Jones Act is hindering relief efforts in Puerto Rico is simply false. Already, U.S.-flag and other vessels have delivered thousands of containers full of relief supplies to the territory. Damaged infrastructure on the island has prevented these supplies from reaching those in need. Capacity of U.S. vessels is not the problem, and repealing the Jones Act cannot fix roads and bridges that have been flooded or power grids that are offline.

“Some claim the Jones Act is directly responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic crisis — another accusation that is simply not true. The economic problems facing Puerto Rico are caused by Congress’ failure to provide real fiscal relief and an economic stimulus package the territory needs, and have nothing to do with the Jones Act.

“Furthermore, when American vessels are unable to provide relief during emergencies, longstanding federal law allows for the temporary waiver of the Jones Act. Waivers should be granted judiciously when merited, and not for ideological reasons or at the request of foreign shippers. We will not oppose waivers that are needed in emergency situations when U.S. vessels are not available.

“Since 1920, the Jones Act has played an important role in protecting our national security by ensuring U.S. crews and ships are always available for military and humanitarian purposes, and by supporting American jobs. Repealing this law will lead to the outsourcing of good-paying, American jobs, paving the way for foreign shippers to cherry-pick crews from countries where labor and wage laws are lax. There has never been a need to repeal this law, and there is not one now.”

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