The Jones Act Is Not Controversial And Will Not Help Reduce Gas Prices
The oil lobby is dumping a lot of ink into swaying public opinion against The Jones Act. They blame the protections afforded to maritime workers for the rising cost of gasoline. However, the cost of gasoline remained stable throughout decades of the legislation and now it’s spiking due to considerations outside of the aegis of The Jones Act. Why is The Jones Act suddenly controversial?
Well, folks are pretty mad about the price of gasoline so attaching their interests to a well-known frustration is going to garner some public support. The question then becomes: How do domestic oil companies benefit from rescinding The Jones Act? Well, they get to hire foreign workers for less money increasing their profits. These profits would be passed on to the customer, they claim, but there’s no requirement for the companies to reduce gas prices because they’re saving money by reducing worker protections. If repealed, it would allow domestic oil companies to use foreign-flagged vessels to transport gasoline costing millions of Americans their jobs. The net savings at the pump would be a few pennies.
Why is The Jones Act so important?
American workers working aboard maritime vessels have special protections that most workers do not. These include the right to sue your employer for negligence and a very worker-friendly workers’ compensation system that ensures that injured workers get the medical services they need to return to work. The Jones Act further sets standards on worker safety.
Under The Jones Act, only American-flagged vessels can transport fuel to American ports. This protects American jobs and prevents foreign vessels from undercutting the American economy by paying their workers less and cutting corners on workers’ safety. These foreign workers have limited recourse to recovery when they are injured and the standards for worker safety aren’t nearly as high.
Who supports The Jones Act?
Democrats and Trump-era Republicans both support The Jones Act. This is based on the belief that protecting American jobs is more important than neoliberal ideas concerning the free market. Traditional (non-Trump) conservatives dislike any protectionist policy that prevents competition in the marketplace (ostensibly). They believe that repealing The Jones Act would help consumers pay less money at the pump.
Here’s the rub. The price of gasoline will not remain this high forever. Even oil companies are betting that the price of oil will go down. They are not initiating new drills on that basis. If you can charge $5/gallon, then it’s worth it. But since they won’t be able to, they’ve avoided creating new drilling sites. The Biden Administration has likewise increased tax rates on new drills.
This means that the window for these companies to dump anti-Jones Act opinion pieces into our cultural ether is closing rapidly. By the end of the year, anxiety over gas prices may be gone and no one will care about The Jones Act until some new mogul pays for a new piece of content marketing amid some other crisis.
Talk to a Miami Maritime Attorney Today
Miami admiralty & maritime lawyer Michael F. Guilford represents the interests of passengers and crew in lawsuits against ship operators. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.