The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO has come out in opposition to legislation introduced by Senators McCain and Mike Lee 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 US jobs and is critical to our national security,” said Larry I. Willis, president of TTD. “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.”
Willis denies the claim that the Jones Act is hindering relief efforts in Puerto Rico. “US-flag and other vessels have delivered thousands of containers full of relief supplies to the territory,” he said. “Damaged infrastructure on the island has prevented these supplies from reaching those in need. Capacity of US 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.”
The labor also characterized as “an accusation that is simply not true” the claim that the Jones Act is responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic crisis by increasing transportation costs from the US mainland to the island commonwealth. “The economic problems facing Puerto Rico are caused by Congress’ failure to provide real fiscal relief and an economic stimulus package the territory needs,” Willis said, “and have nothing to do with the Jones Act.
“Furthermore,” he added, “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 US vessels are not available.”
Willis argued that the Jones Act has played an important role in protecting US national security by ensuring US crews and ships are available for military and humanitarian purposes, and by supporting American jobs. “Repealing this law will lead to the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs,” he said, “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.”