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US unions back role of US shipping in hurricane recovery work

20 October 2017

The USA trade union centre, the AFL-CIO, has written to US senators to back the role of US ships operating under the Jones Act in assisting with the recovery work in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Under the 1920 Jones Act, vessels carrying passengers and merchandise between US ports must be US-owned, US-crewed and US-built. The Jones Act requires US ships and crews to be available in national emergencies.

Responding to criticism that vital supplies were not getting through to the hurricane-hit areas, the AFL-CIO commented that: “life-saving supplies were arriving hourly on Jones Act ships, as well as on foreign ships not covered by the Jones Act." However, transportation bottlenecks and a shortage of drivers had then impeded distribution of goods into Puerto Rico’s interior, it said.

In its response, the union centre noted that some criticism of the Jones Act was “based on the misguided view that the US government should not play a role in ensuring that US crews and ships are always available for military and humanitarian missions.”

Repealing the Jones Act, said the AFL-CIO, would “pave the way for foreign companies to replace domestic crews with lower paid workers lacking basic labour protections. According to the ITF, foreign-flag ships often do not enforce safety standards, minimum social standards or trade union rights, fail to pay crews, and avoid compliance with environmental standards.”

The US Seafarers International Union (SIU) has launched a Seafarers Disaster Aid Fund to help current and retired members affected by the recent hurricanes that have hit the US Gulf and Atlantic coasts; donations can be made through:


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