The AFL-CIO has sent a letter to all U.S. House of Representatives and Senators expressing concern that the repeal of the Jones Act could destroy the U.S. maritime industry. Without the protection of the Jones Act, foreign ships and crews would replace Americans in the shipping industry. “Since the Jones Act ensures that our labor laws protect maritime employees, repealing the Act would pave the way for foreign companies to replace domestic crews with lower paid workers lacking basic labor protections,” William Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s government affairs director, wrote in the letter. “Repealing the Jones Act would not result in additional supplies getting to the Island, but it would jeopardize the survival of the U.S. maritime sector and along with it thousands of jobs that would be outsourced to foreign carriers.”
Enacted in 1920, the Jones Act requires that passengers and cargo going between domestic ports be transported by U.S.-flagged ships. Responding to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, On September 28th, the Trump administration placed a ten day waiver on the Act. This allowed ships from any country to drop off supplies in the port of San Juan.
William Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s government affairs director said, it was not the Jones Act that prevented supplies from reaching Americans on the island. The larger issue was a lack of truck drivers and roads that were not passable. Jones Act ships carrying supplies began arriving at Puerto Rico’s main port in San Juan as soon as it reopened. “What is needed now is for the U.S. military and FEMA to deploy all of their available resources to address the escalating humanitarian crisis,” Samuel wrote. “Our fellow citizens on Puerto Rico deserve no less.”