In 1933, Congress established National Maritime Day to honor and celebrate our nation’s maritime employees and the crucial role they play in keeping our country strong and secure.
The maritime and port industries have changed significantly in the 83 years since the holiday was established, but one thing hasn’t changed: the recognition and thanks we owe our nation’s maritime and longshore workforce. These men and women are an integral part of our nation’s economy and security, and they deserve more than a day in the spotlight — they deserve more support from the people we elect.
The work done by mariners and longshore workers is difficult, underappreciated and often dangerous. Civilian mariners spend months at sea away from their families as they deliver goods during wartime or answer the call during humanitarian disasters. Since the Revolutionary War, they have met the challenge. Longshore workers, too, have been at the frontlines of making sure our nation’s ports serve as hubs of economic expansion, military assistance and job creation.
Sadly, our nation’s politics and public policies no longer align with the needs of working people. That means, like so many other members of our transportation workforce, mariners and port workers are being asked to do more with less as their careers are threatened. They face threats to their rights to negotiate good contracts; have seen their jobs decimated by flag-of-convenience schemes; face ongoing funding threats, and work with infrastructure that is severely outdated.
Today, at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Maritime Day Celebration, TTD President Edward Wytkind joined Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen; Rear Admiral Thomas Shannon, Commander, Military Sealift Command; General Darren McDew, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command; and other distinguished leaders, to call for more aggressive action to reverse the U.S. maritime sector’s decline.
Read excerpts from Ed’s speech below:
A day dedicated to maritime employees must also spark a national conversation about the state of the industry to which these men and women dedicate themselves. Today, working people in the maritime sector encounter obstacles that are a reflection of broader trends facing so many working Americans.
Generations of maritime workers formed the backbone of our maritime logistics network. Presidents from both parties honored their service and supported them. They set the standard for skill and precision, and sacrificed a great deal to deliver for our nation. They built a strong U.S. maritime industry hoping they would have a chance to share in its bounty as part of a prospering middle-class.
We must support and invest in our maritime workers — not undermine them — as they face a storm of economic and political forces that threaten their very future. I believe the historic compact between America and its mariners is at risk.
We know what the flag-of-convenience business model has done to hollow out our domestic seafaring fleet … This “scour the globe” mentality has sacrificed tens of thousands of U.S. maritime jobs. And sadly, a Norwegian airline is now trying to emulate this race-to-the-bottom model in aviation.
The time has come to summon the will to reverse the decline of the U.S. maritime sector, and not be fragmented by political battles that demean the very working people we salute today. These are men and women whose careers and contributions are interwoven into the fabric of America since its infancy. Pushing ideas and reforms that undermine labor standards and cut jobs in the maritime sector is unproductive and wastes energy better spent on making U.S. maritime a success story: A story about growth, prosperity, peace and security, middle-class careers and service to our Nation.