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Posted: February 1, 2010

AMO Voluntary Political Action Fund: A proven investment in job security

American Maritime Officers Legislative Director Paul Doell sent the following letter Jan. 25 to all AMO members and AMO applicants who participated in the AMO Voluntary Political Action Fund in 2009.

Thank you for your support of the American Maritime Officers Voluntary Political Action Fund in 2009. Your wise investment helped our union accomplish much in Washington, and we are grateful to you.

With your help, AMO last year was able to protect many AMO jobs. AMO also held its rightful place as the most effective, most recognized and most respected U.S. maritime policy interest making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

In 2009, AMO had the most direct and consistent contact with key Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives during the successful effort to spare 13 Great Lakes vessels from a last-minute Environmental Protection Agency clean air rule that would have forced the vessels out of service permanently within two years.

This significant legislative victory meant continued employment for AMO engineers, mates and stewards on the 13 lakes vessels. It also meant continued employer contributions from the Lakes vessel operators to the AMO benefit funds that serve all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters families.

AMO also stepped up prominently in the successful fight to sustain the PL-480 “Food for Peace” farm commodity export program, a humanitarian effort that was funded at $1.7 billion in fiscal 2010.

More importantly, our union made use of its extensive contacts among lawmakers and Congressional staffers to ensure strict enforcement of the U.S.-flag cargo preference requirement tied by federal law to PL-480 — a requirement that generates cargoes for three deep-sea employers and keeps AMO engine and deck officers working aboard several ships.

AMO also helped secure full funding of the Maritime Security Program in fiscal 2010 (the MSP includes 15 ships manned by AMO engine and deck officers) and prompted much of the Congressional pressure that hastened the U.S. Coast Guard’s effort to clear a backlog of merchant mariner credential and license renewals.

In addition, American Maritime Officers was the only seagoing union to develop an outreach strategy intended to broaden Congressional understanding of maritime policy issues beyond the traditional sources of support — AMO is now a principal resource for House and Senate members and legislative aides who are beginning to appreciate the U.S. merchant marine as an economic and defense asset and who want to know more.

Your continued participation in the American Maritime Officers Voluntary Political Action Fund in 2010 will be critical to overcoming new and recurring threats to the U.S. merchant fleet in all trades.

At the New Year, our union was bracing for a brawl over an emerging regulatory issue — new Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on air emissions from U.S. cargo ships operating in domestic and international deep-sea trades — restrictions that could send much of the U.S.-flagged fleet to the scrapyards. This contentious issue will not be settled to our industry’s fair advantage without Congressional intervention.

We were also anticipating the issues that never fade: PL-480 and cargo preference and funding of the MSP at the authorized level in fiscal 2011 (MSP appropriations must be approved annually in each federal budget cycle). The European Union, Japan and other U.S. trading partners could press once more for World Trade Organization rules governing maritime services — a development that would void the Jones Act, three separate U.S.-flag cargo preference laws, the Maritime Security Program and a law holding all Alaskan North Slope crude oil exports for U.S.-flagged tankers.

In addition, AMO this year will persist with its unique proposal for new U.S.-flag business opportunities and American seagoing jobs in the Gulf of Mexico offshore energy trades under the Jones Act and promote measures that would result in a U.S.-flagged short sea merchant fleet on the East, West and Gulf Coasts and on the Great Lakes.

The AMO Voluntary Political Action Fund in 2010 will make it possible for our union to lock in the broad bipartisan Congressional support the American maritime industry will need on these fronts and others. Your continued investment will yield more of the dividends earned in 2009 — real returns, measured in the clear and compelling context of job and benefit security for all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO members.

Thank you again for acknowledging the direct link between political action and all domestic and international seagoing jobs under the American flag. Please call me at the AMO office in Washington at 202-479-1166 or on my cell at 954-882-4297 if you want to discuss the issues I raised here or others, or if you have questions, comments or suggestions. And, if your travel plans bring you to the Capital this year, feel free to spend a day or more as your schedule permits with our union’s legislative staff for a first-hand sense of what we do and why it matters.

Sincerely and fraternally,
Paul Doell
Legislative Director