Maritime Trades President Sacco defends the Jones Act at Maritime Trades Department convention in St. Louis

AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department President Mike Sacco (at the podium) said the Jones Act, which requires goods shipped between points in the United States to be carried by vessels built, owned and operated by U.S. citizens and permanent residents, must be preserved. – Labor Tribune photo

Trump administration temporarily waived the act for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico


Preserving the Jones Act, improving our country’s waterways and modernizing the maritime industry were just some of the issues addressed at the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department’s (MTD) Quadrennial Convention Oct. 19-20 in St. Louis.

Maritime Trades President Mike Sacco opened the convention with a passionate plea for preservation of the Jones Act, which regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters.

The Trump administration temporarily waived the act for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, claiming its requirement that goods shipped between points in the United States be carried by vessels built, owned and (mostly) operated by U.S. citizens and permanent residents was hindering disaster relief efforts.

“The Jones Act is a battle that comes up again and again,” Sacco said. “What a political nightmare it has been with Hurricane Maria.”

Leaders in Puerto Rico, which has long opposed the act, asked for the waiver and several members of Congress, including Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) supported it.

Sacco said supplies have been getting to Puerto Rico, but have been backlogged at the ports due to the devastation of roads and bridges and other infrastructure on the island.

What’s more, foreign vessels are also bringing fuel and supplies to the island from foreign ports, he said, and the Jones Act does not prohibit that from happening.


Sacco said the Jones Act is for the Maritime Trades what the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires paying local prevailing wages on public works projects, is for the building trades.

For nearly 100 years, the Jones Act has been an important part of the United States’ economic and national security, Sacco said. It has  ensured that there are well-trained, experienced mariners and a fleet of dependable ships ready and available in times of military need and/or natural disasters.

This summer, opponents of the Jones Act submitted another piece of legislation to do away with the act, Sacco said.

Thankfully, the act is largely well-defended by allies on both sides of the aisle, who understand the value of putting American mariners to work on domestically built, U.S.-flagged ships, transporting goods between domestic ports, he said

“Everyone is stepping up to protect the Jones Act and the jobs that go with it,” Sacco said. “We’ll get through these struggles together.”


About 200 delegates representing every aspect of the maritime industry—from ship builders to mariners, to boatmen and fishermen working aboard U.S.-flag deep sea ships, Great Lakes vessels and inland waters and harbor boats— filled the Marriott-St. Louis convention hall, re-electing Sacco by acclamation, along with Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan.

In addition to leading the Maritime Trades Department, Sacco is also president of the Seafarers International Union of North America (SIUNA) – a federation of 12 international unions representing 80,000 merchant mariners, industrial, service and government workers and other skilled trades and professions – and president of his home union – the SIUNA-affiliated Seafarers International Union; Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters District/National Maritime Union (AGLIWD/NMU).

Duncan has a rich labor history. His maternal grandfather was a shop steward at the old Cleveland, OH shipyard and his father was a rank-and-file machinist. His first job was as a sacker for Kroger, where he joined the Retail Clerks, later to become the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in 1973.

After college, Duncan worked as newspaper reporter before becoming director of the Ft. Lauderdale (FL) senior employment program with the National Council of Senior Citizens. He was hired by the Seafarers International Union in 1987, working in Jacksonville, FL as a field representative before transferring to the union’s headquarters in Camp Springs, MD to work in the communications department, eventually becoming the director of communications in 1996.

In 2000, Duncan was transferred to the MTD where he served as assistant to Sacco and MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Frank Pecquex. He became executive secretary-treasurer in 2011. He is also president of the Northern Virginia Labor Federation.


The convention took up more than two dozen resolutions, including a stand in support of the Jones Act, against so-called “right-to-work” (for less) laws and a salute to Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief responders.

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ST. LOUIS PORT COUNCIL President Jack Martorelli addresses delegates at the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department convention in St. Louis. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis area leaders pledge support for Maritime Trades

Speaking to delegates at the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department’s (MTD) convention in St. Louis, Mayor Lyda Krewson said: “We, in St. Louis, have been friends of Organized Labor and the maritime trades for a long time.

“Many don’t think of the Midwest as a focus of the maritime trades, but the truth is that the St. Louis is a top transportation hub, a place where good union jobs are growing,” Krewson said. “By capturing the Mississippi River’s economic values, we create jobs.

“The Midwest has nearly 25,000 miles of navigable waters in the Mississippi River System and connecting waterways, and the maritime industry is responsible for 20,000 jobs that are critical to our St. Louis economy,” Krewson said.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said union labor has been key to bringing $4 billion in recent investments into St. Louis County.

“This boom has attracted national attention,” Stenger said. “St. Louis has the best trained workforce in the Midwest. You always have my support, especially next year when the so-called ‘right-to-work’ law comes to Missouri voters at the polls.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the St. Louis and St. Charles areas are dependent on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Port of Metropolitan St. Louis is the third largest inland port in the U. S., he said, and the seventh largest port for domestic tonnage.

“The St. Louis/St. Charles County area is the envy of the barge industry,” Ehlmann said. “Our region is the northernmost lock and ice-free port on the Mississippi River and offers substantial fleeting operations.”

About 105 million tons of cargo pass through the St. Louis region annually with 35 million tons crossing area docks. Port district operators and barge industry workers service high annual volumes of barges, while handling tons of fertilizer, steel, manufactured goods, coal, petroleum products and agricultural commodities.

U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-IL) a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also addressed the convention, thanking Organized Labor for the opportunity to show that Republicans and Democrats are moving forward, listening to each other.

St. Louis Port Council President and long-time St. Louis Labor leader Jack Martorelli said hundreds of union members are working hard in the Maritime Trades in the St. Louis area.

“Let’s continue to grow jobs!” he said.



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