Recently I read an editorial about the Jones Act in the Wall Street Journal, which explained that the Jones Act of 1920 (actually the Merchant Marine Act named after Washington State Senator, Wesley L. Jones), “…requires ships working in U.S. waters to be built, operated and owned by Americans.” Apparently the original rationale for the Jones Act, put forward by Senator Jones and his cohorts, was bad working conditions onboard ships. In reality, it was a protectionist law pushed by Harry Bridges’ far left International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU)to artificially force up wages and indirectly the cost of consumer goods.
Bridges, a radical union leader who immigrated to the United States from Australia, split off from the anti-communist International Longshoremen's Association and formed the ILWU in 1937. While still an alien he was arrested and a deportation hearing was held. Joseph Ryan, East Coast International Longshoremen's Association’s leader, called Bridges and his lieutenant, Louis Goldblatt, “puppets of the international communist conspiracy.” When he was accused of being a Communist, he replied, “I neither affirm nor deny that I am a Communist.” Lending credibility to the charge that Bridges was a Communist was the fact that he did not hesitate to accept aid from the Communist Party. Regardless, similar to many of the top union leaders today, he was from a definite Marxist bent.
Senator Jones, a liberal Republican, likely operated at the behest of the Longshoreman’s Union since Seattle was a major American port and Seattle was a hotbed of far left union activity in the early 1900s as it still is today.
Occasionally the Jones Act has been suspended by Presidential decree for extenuating circumstances. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Jones Act was waived by President George W. Bush for a two week period in 2005 allowing foreign vessels to provide oil and natural gas on an emergency basis. On another occasion a waiver of the Jones Act was granted allowing the Chinese ship Tai An Kou to pull an oil rig to Alaska.
Officials in the Gulf Coast States have repeatedly asked President Obama to temporarily suspend the Jones Act so that vessels offered by foreign governments can assist in the BP oil spill clean-up. Government officials in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana see the oil creeping ever closer to their shores and urgently need additional skimming ships. Yet President Obama still declines to take this simple step that would dramatically reduce the risk of oil from the BP spill reaching and destroying beaches and the economy of these Gulf Coast states.
State-of-the-art skimming technology exists in Germany and the Netherlands which could alleviate millions, perhaps billions of dollars of damage to the Gulf states. So why didn’t the President act immediately to do everything possible to avoid further destruction to the Gulf Coast states?
Sadly the reason is politics. The President and his party are totally dependent on the millions doled out by the unions to win elections and clearly the word has come down from the union bosses that if he suspends the Jones Act it will be at his political peril. Apparently politics trump reason, compassion and common sense. Never in my lifetime has there been a President, regardless of party, who was incapable of rising above politics to put his country first in an emergency. Come on, Mr. President, it’s time to act on the Jones Act. Put the interest and well being of the citizens of the Gulf Coast states above your political debt to the unions and be the President of all Americans.