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What is the fascinating, hidden history of the Jones Act?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2018 | Jones Act

Many maritime workers know the Jones Act as a crucial law regarding workers’ compensation. The Jones Act requires employers to maintain safety standards on their vessels and provide a safe workplace for seamen and other workers. The act also allows workers to file lawsuits against their employers if they suffer an injury on the job.

But few people know the controversial history of the Jones Act. In his post, we will revisit the hidden history of this now-crucial law.

Regulating trade and protecting workers

In 1920, the American shipping industry was still reeling after the First World War. Senator Wesley Jones of Alaska wanted to give his maritime constituents a monopoly on shipping to their state. He introduced the act, also referred to as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, to Congress.

The law’s two most important components involve cabotage and workers’ rights. The act states that all goods shipped between U.S. ports must be transported on American vessels.

The Jones Act also affects workers’ rights. It grants seamen and other personnel the right to sue their employers for injuries incurred in the workplace. The act sets safety regulations that employers must follow or be penalized.

What is the future of the Jones Act?

The Jones Act remains a controversial piece of legislation. It faces threats from opponents who wish to repeal it to reduce shipping costs. Some contemporary politicians and business owners say that the Jones Act unnecessarily restricts free trade. Repealing the act would decrease shipping costs, but could decrease maritime jobs.

Fortunately, the act has many strong advocates, including labor unions, members of the shipping industry and admiralty and maritime attorneys. It is for protecting the rights of injured workers. It allows these people to collect workers’ compensation and file lawsuits, among other legal options.