The Honorable James L. Oberstar
Chairman Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On behalf of the 17 national and International unions that make up the Metal Trades Department, I am asking for your strong support in retaining the provision in H.R. 5629 that will require future offshore energy facilities operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to be built in the United States.
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents the majority of the shipbuilding workers in America and I can tell you we are facing shrinking budgets and declining orders for ships from the Navy and Coast Guard and we have been actively pursuing construction opportunities in the energy sector to sustain our facilities and skilled work force. The Navy has reduced its 30 year shipbuilding plan by some 45 previously planned ships. The construction of offshore drilling platforms, wind turbines, and wave energy facilities ideally match the skills and experience employed by shipyards and their suppliers in the construction of steel vessels. Without the provision in your bill, this American work will all be exported to foreign shipyards and American shipyards will continue to lose its highly skilled workforce and place the future of the shipbuilding facilities at risk. One of our shipyards facing imminent closure and shutdown is Avondale shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana, where some 7000 Gulf Coast families are facing the loss of their good paying middle class jobs. Our Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi faces an uncertain future as Northrop Grumman just announced that it was no longer going to be in the shipbuilding business and plans to either sell its shipbuilding sector, or spin it off as a stand-alone business. The shipbuilding economic impact from Ingalls and Avondale shipyard to the Gulf Coast region is 12.6 billion dollars- more than six times the economic impact of losing the entire Gulf Coast seafood industry that is in the nightly news. We have an opportunity to create middle class manufacturing jobs with these provisions and to begin to recover from the worst recession in modern history.
I am sure you have heard from the rich and powerful oil and gas industry. They are lobbying Congress to allow the continued use of Communist Chinese builds, like BP used in the overhaul of the failed Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer. I am asking that you listen to the lone voice of the American worker who doesn’t have a rich and powerful Capitol Hill Lobbyist and to pass this legislation with the provisions on behalf of America’s shipyard workers. Commercial work is essential in saving these six national strategic defense facilities and keeping the last bastion of America’s heavy manufacturing industry from becoming extinct.
Your efforts to ensure enactment of the provision to require that offshore energy facilities be American made is critical to saving and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S., to ensuring the highest safety standards in the construction of such facilities, and to fostering American energy independence and our national security.
Thank you for your consideration of this critical provision for America’s shipbuilding workers,
Ronald E. Ault
By Mike Hall, AFL-CIO Blog–
Mine operators around the country, like Massey Energy, owner of the deadly Upper Big Branch coal mine where 29 miners were killed in April, routinely escape tougher enforcement by appealing serious safety violations to a federal agency that’s bogged down with a 17,000-case backlog.
It can take the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) more than two years before it finally adjudicates a case. During the appeals process, operators like Massey with troubling safety records avoid being placed under a stricter safety watch because of their pattern of violations.
Last night, as part of an emergency supplemental funding bill, the U.S. House approved $22 million for FMSHRC and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to reduce the backlog of appeals. Says Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee:
It is clear that the seemingly indiscriminate appeals of nearly every significant safety violation by some mine operators are undermining important enforcement tools and putting miners’ lives at risk. This additional funding approved today will reverse a backlog that has been allowed to pile up since the Bush administration and is a step in the right direction in holding some of our most dangerous mine operators accountable.
Miller says it takes an average of 30 months to adjudicate a contested violation. In a preliminary report on the Upper Big Branch blast, MSHA says that Massey “contested the majority of its serious violation citations” that could have led to putting the mine under the tougher safety watch before the April 5 explosion.
From 2009 through March this year, MSHA inspectors cited the Upper Big Branch mine for more than 600 safety violations, nearly 40 percent of which were classified as “significant and substantial.” Also the Massey mine’s rate for repeated serious violations was 19 times higher than the national average, according to the report. But because Massey appealed the serious violations, it was able to avoid the stricter enforcement and inspections that a pattern of violations finding triggers.
The Senate already approved the bill and President Obama will sign it.
From the AFL-CIO Blog by Mike Hall, Jul 19, 2010
Here’s some advice for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican colleagues whose obstruction-at-any-price strategy has cost more than 2 million long-term jobless workers their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right—not for the next election but for the middle class.
Those words from President Obama today came a little more than 24 hours before the U.S. Senate once again tries to break the Republican blockade on extending the long-term UI that expired June 1 because Republicans filibustered against the bill. Pointing to their preference for helping out the wealthy and Wall Street over extending a hand to working families, Obama says “after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit,” the Republicans
who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to the middle class.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says “the Party of No”
has been the “Party of No Leadership” on the economy. Just look at its record: When Republicans were in charge, they put special interests and big corporations ahead of the middle class, driving our economy into a ditch. Now, they are protecting tax breaks for CEOs who outsource jobs while blocking policies that actually create jobs, like tax cuts for small businesses and a safety net for workers hurt by Republicans’ job-killing policies.
McConnell told reporters today that he will again lead a filibuster against the jobless benefits extension. But with the swearing in of Carte Goodwin, who was appointed to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) until a special election is held, Democratic leaders believe they can reach the 60 votes needed to beat McConnell’s obstruction. The U.S. House is then expected to quickly approve the bill and send it to Obama.
The following unions signed on in support of two letters sent to Congress urging support of Title XI Ship Loan Guarantee program and limiting the leasing of foreign built ships.
The Department urges its members to send your own letters to Congress on these two important causes. View the Department’s letters.
40 Days Before BP Gusher—8 Unions and the Metal Trades Urged OMB to Apply Jones Act to Offshore Drilling; Letter Argued That Law Would Provide Better Environmental Protection
A March 9, 2010 letter signed by the Metal Trades and eight other unions—Boilermakers, UA, IAM, Insulators, Steelworkers, UAW Operating Engineers and Iron Workers—urged OMB to apply the Jones Act to the offshore drilling industry. The letter was written in support of a position taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) in July 2009.
CPB wanted to reverse policy letters written under the Bush Administration that waived Jones Act rules for the industry, a position that had “the cumulative effect of undermining the Jones Act and congressional intent by creating a regulatory loophole” enabling foreign vessels to transport “a significant amount of cargo” in coastwise trade. The oil industry objected to CPB’s efforts, snarling the rule change. The oil industry raised cost concerns and procedural issues to block the change.
“The very purpose of our coastwise laws is to ensure that such jobs go to Americans instead of to foreigners and that higher safety and environmental standards are set for those who wish to profit from operating commercially in US. Waters. The law aside, domestic preference should certainly resonate in the foreseeable job climate’” the letter asserted.
Jones Labor (pdf)