Enforcing the Jones Act Strengthens U.S. Economy and National Defense

It is both sad and unsurprising that some are using the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico to attack the Jones Act -- a maritime cabotage law that protects good U.S. jobs and ensures the U.S. military has sealift capability in times of war or conflict. Sad because the crisis in Puerto Rico is real and the people there need and deserve help from our government, but more to the point, undermining the Jones Act will not solve the problem.  It is unsurprising because ALPA knows that foreign interests will find just about any excuse to try and weaken U.S. cabotage rules at the expense of U.S. workers and fair competition. As a union that understands the value of cabotage laws in the aviation sector, we have a responsibility to help set the record straight on what the Jones Act does and does not do. 

First some facts.  The Jones Act ensures maritime shipments between two U.S. points are made on vessels that are U.S. built, U.S. owned, and U.S. crewed. Like U.S. aviation cabotage laws, this ensures domestic traffic is reserved for U.S. vessels and workers, creating a stable market and a defense against unfair foreign competition. The Jones Act does not require foreign vessels pay a special tax or tariff or stop in the United States before going to Puerto Rico, as some have claimed. 

The sad truth is the U.S. maritime industry has already been decimated by flag-of-convenience schemes that allow vessel owners to shop the world for the cheapest labor, tax and regulatory havens under which to operate. If it weren’t for the Jones Act and other maritime support policies, the U.S. maritime industry -- which includes port dredging and shipbuilding -- would essentially disappear, costing good jobs and weakening U.S. defense capabilities. It would also create a greater market for foreign-flag ships that often do not enforce safety standards and labor rights.Aviation workers know all too well the consequences of flag-of-convenience schemes and the weakening of cabotage or foreign ownership rules.  Whether these threats are in the aviation or maritime industry, a common theme can be found: foreign carriers want a shot at the U.S. market but don’t want to comply with U.S. laws or standards.   

Some claim the Jones Act is interfering with relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico. As explained in detail by the maritime unions before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, this is false.  There is ample capacity on U.S. vessels to ship relief cargo to the Island. The real problem with relief efforts stems from the inability to move supplies over damaged roads and bridges while navigating massive power outages.

ALPA is committed to helping our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. That is why ALPA pilots have been honored to fly relief flights to and from Puerto Rico to this day.  A team of our pilots voluntarily helped organize and flew a relief mission carrying a widebody airplane full of skilled union members just days after the Hurricane devastated the island. Our union brothers and sisters saw firsthand the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and are doing what they can to help. It is galling that anyone would try to use this humanitarian crisis to scapegoat a law that protects good jobs. As we say in the labor movement, an injury to one is an injury to all. We will stand with the maritime unions on the Jones Act fight because it is the right thing to do. We will lend our voice and experience because the same arguments against the Jones Act have been used to go after the jobs and rights of ALPA members.  To our maritime brothers and sisters: we’ve got your back.  

Categories: Industry


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