After five years of research and advocacy, there is finally some movement on the Jones Act.
On May 10, 2018, the New York City Bar Association submitted an official report to US congress, which “strongly encourages Congress to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the requirements of the Jones Act.”
Ignorance was the First Obstacle
The road has not been easy. For decades, proponents of Jones Act reform were met with blank stares and one question: “what the devil are you talking about?”
Until recently, the vast majority of the American public – including the press, elected officials, academics, union officials and business leaders – had no clue about Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, aka the Jones Act, and its destruction of the Puerto Rican economy.
Even today, many readers confuse it with the 1917 Jones-Shafroth Act – which imposed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans, and drafted them into WWI.
Other individuals, some of them self-interested, have claimed that Jones Act reform will “hurt maritime workers” or “eliminate union protections,” which is simply untrue.
A Long Lonely Road
For many years, I waged a nearly one-man battle against this ignorance. I knew that many corporate interests had a well-funded program in place, to perpetuate this level of national ignorance and confusion with respect to the Jones Act in Puerto Rico.
It was a corporate smokescreen of the highest order, with Citizens United money – i.e., 501(c)(4) “dark money” organizations – behind it. The only way to confront this was head-on.
I taped segments on Univisión:
Spoke on network TV:
Wrote repeatedly in War Against All Puerto Ricans:
Walked into the lion’s den at Fox News:
A video on Pero Like was viewed nearly 8 million times:
The New York Times Editorial
For three years I submitted an editorial to the New York Times. Finally after Hurricane Maria hit, they decided to run it on September 25, 2017.
It received so many views that, two days later, they translated and ran it again, in Spanish.
Over the next three days (Sept. 25-28) the op ed was analyzed and adopted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg News, Reuters, Time Magazine, Newsweek Magazine, and The Atlantic.
During those same three days, the media carried the “Jones Act Story” on NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, NPR, PBS, WNYC and New York 1.
Here are the LINKS for all of the above stories:
TV & RADIO:
After years of explaining and struggling against the Jones Act, the world finally began to see how this one law was strangling the economy of Puerto Rico: for nearly a century, since 1920.
The media pressure became so great that, within two days of the NY Times editorial, Pres. Trump announced a 10-day “waiver” of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico:
The Cavalry rides in…and just in time
Politically and tactically, Trump’s ten-day waiver was a successful move. It didn’t accomplish anything for Puerto Rico – but it took the steam out of the Jones Act story, and enabled other headlines to dominate the news cycle.
By the end of those ten days, the press had moved on to other subjects: most notably, Trump’s tossing of paper towels to a roomful of reporters in San Juan.
We therefore went into organizing mode: coordinating with Misión Boricua in Orlando, and Respect and Justice for Puerto Rico in New York, to organize the state of Florida for a “March on Jacksonville.” Adela López and Zoraida Rios Andino in Orlando; and Julio Pabon, Emilio Morante and Eduardo Rosario in New York, have all been vital in this effort.
And then the cavalry arrived: on May 10, 2018, the New York City Bar Association demanded a permanent Jones Act repeal for Puerto Rico.
The NYC Bar Association is a major national presence: with 24,000 members, it is one of the premier lawyers’ organizations in the US. With a detailed press release and 15-page report, they are calling for immediate action by the US Congress, in regard to this Jones Act relief.
This is no small matter. On September 27, 2017, two days after the NY Times editorial, the NYC Bar Association sent a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security urging a suspension of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico. The very next day, Pres. Trump announced his 10-day waiver.
Now in May 2018, the Bar Association’s report is even more detailed. It lists two dozen members of Congress, from both parties, who support exempting Puerto Rico from the requirements of the Jones Act.
It cites a petition “to waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico” that gathered half a million signatures in just five days.
It notes that repealing the Jones Act’s restrictions on Puerto Rico would not harm national security, or cost anything to U.S. taxpayers, or reduce the union protections to any maritime workers.
It notes that shipping companies use the Jones Act to create illegal price-fixing schemes, and illegal antitrust conspiracies, to maximize the profit from their captive captive market in Puerto Rico.
The report concludes that: “Exempting Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, much like the U.S. Virgin Islands, would be a way for Congress to help Puerto Rico’s economy at no additional cost to American citizens. The New York City Bar urges a permanent exemption to allow the global markets to help Puerto Rico and remove impediments to its economic growth. There is broad bi-partisan support for this exemption from the Jones Act. The time to take action to help those in Puerto Rico is now.”
We must also eliminate the 12.5% “Export Tax”
We salute the NYC Bar Association for their courage and leadership on behalf of Puerto Rico. We extend our thanks to John S. Kiernan (President), Roger Juan Maldonado (Chairman of the Task Force on Puerto Rico) and Neysa Alsina (In-house Counsel) for their steadfast advocacy, and detailed research, on the Jones Act issue.
If at all possible, we also encourage them to challenge the 12.5% export tax that was recently slapped on Puerto Rico, as an alleged “foreign tax” jurisdiction.
This 12.5% tax was thrown at the island after Hurricane Maria, as part of the GOP tax plan.
In view of its horrific timing, demonstrable and immediate damage to the island, and clear conflict with the 2016 Supreme Court decision that Puerto Rico is a “territorial possession” of the US (i.e., not a foreign jurisdiction) this 12.5% export tax is arbitrary and capricious in its application to Puerto Rico, and clearly subject to Article 78 relief.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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