International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Asks: If Keystone is a “Jobs Bill” Why Would Congress Want to Send 400,000 Maritime Jobs in 26 States Overseas?
S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, has been described as a “jobs bill” by the pipeline’s proponents since Keystone XL was first proposed, but according to the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a new amendment introduced by Arizona Sen. John McCain would turn S.1 into a “’job killer’ of epic and irreversible proportions.”
The Sea Captains’ Union claims the amendment would gut a significant part of the Jones Act, a set of laws dating back to the 1920s that has helped build and maintain a domestic shipbuilding industry. Maritime unions and maritime industry groups are now mobilizing against the amendment’s passage. Among those actively opposing passage are the Maritime Labor Alliance and its coalition of maritime unions, and others in maritime and transportation labor, along with the Shipbuilders Council of America and the American Maritime Partnership.
“In Washington sometimes up is down and offense is defense, but an amendment that seeks to eliminate highly-skilled steady middle-class jobs employing hundreds of thousands of our countrymen should never be called good for America,” said Captain Don Marcus, who serves as the President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a union representing sea captains and deck officers on U.S. flagged vessels. “This is beyond hypocrisy,” he added.
McCain’s amendment seeks to repeal the build provisions of the Jones Act, the cabotage laws that require ships plying domestic waters to be built in the United States.
The union asserts that if S.1 is passed with McCain’s amendment included, it would decimate the nation’s shipping industry, eliminating as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs spread over 26 states, lead to the closing of shipyards and related industries, reduce GDP by an estimated $36 billion and erase $24 billion in American workers’ wages and benefits, according to figures compiled by the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.
For example, 21,890 shipyard jobs in Florida generating $1.6 billion in annual economic activity would be at risk, including more than $1 billion in labor income, according to the U.S Maritime Administration.
Mississippi Senators, Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, have publicly opposed McCain’s amendment. Shipbuilding represents 23,450 jobs in Mississippi. The industry's economic impact to the Gulf Coast state's GDP is $2 billion, according to figures from the American Maritime Partnership.
Senators from across the aisle, including Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), oppose the change to the Jones Act. Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have significant shipbuilding industries.
International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots said the parties that would most benefit from this amendment are heavily subsidized foreign shipping competitors not subject to U.S. laws, regulations, environmental standards and taxes, adding that Senator McCain and his supporters would rather see fuel and cargo hauled in U.S. waters on tankers and freighters built overseas and operated by foreign crews rather than American-made ships staffed by U.S. citizens. “It’s outrageous that John McCain is doing this,” Marcus said.
The union added that beyond the threat to the domestic economy, this amendment would also threaten national security by destabilizing the military’s strategic sealift needs. The Jones Act ensures that the U.S. has a reliable source of domestically built ships and skilled American crews available for its military and humanitarian aid operations. “Without the sealift capability and American maritime jobs provided by the Jones Act and the Maritime Security Program,” said Marcus, “the U.S. Armed Forces would be forced to rely on foreign-flag ships and crews with unknown loyalties to transport critical military cargo and personnel to overseas operations. Bad idea.” Among the groups that have voiced opposition to the McCain Amendment is the Navy League of the United States.