Free Markets and Jones Act Reform at Union Meeting?
by Keli'i Akina, President/CEO, Grassroot Institute
This week I addressed a conference sponsored by two maritime unions at the Pier 19 warehouse auditorium at Honolulu Harbor. I spoke about the free-market value of an inter-island ferry system and how it could produce jobs, economic vitality and competition between the islands. While my comments were general, Michael Hansen, Grassroot Institute’s chief policy advisor on the Jones Act and president of Hawaii Shippers Council, presented a specific proposal on how to bring down the costs of such a ferry system. Hansen proposed a single exemption to the way the Jones Act is applied in Hawaii in order to allow the purchase of less expensive but more efficient foreign-built ferries.
Free markets and Jones Act reform at a meeting of union leaders and workers? Strange bedfellows?
Yes, there are issues that must be addressed. Some in the conversation believe that any and all jobs related to an inter-island ferry system should be exclusively union jobs. Others in the conversation believe that extraordinary, time-consuming and costly measures to protect the environment should be taken. But, the bottom-line is that Grassroot Institute, as your independent free-market think tank, is now IN the conversation too.
Ideas matter. At Grassroot, we’re working hard to show that the State of Hawaii simply can’t afford to go on spending recklessly given our unfunded liabilities (over $40 billion now), declining State revenues, and skyrocketing costs of the Fixed Rail project.
But we’re also showing how we can move forward with solutions like the one presented at the union conference: a specific exemption to the Jones Act won’t threaten union jobs one bit, but would allow tax-payers to save potentially tens of millions of dollars on a ferry system that would help revitalize our local economy.
I also shared with the audience, something we like to say at Grassroot Institute, “E hana kakou,” which means “Let’s work together.” That’s what we do at Grassroot - we bring differing viewpoints together to find free-market, liberty promoting solutions many can agree upon.
For example, as a follow-up to our Jones Act exemption proposal for a ferry system, Grassroot Institute will bring together experts in legal, shipping, governmental, and environmental matters as a Think Tank group to develop the proposal further.
I’m especially excited that this group will be the first Think Tank group to meet in our brand new downtown Honolulu office and conference space, which we have just moved into.
It’s an exciting time as Grassroot is growing. And our staff team is growing. Our office is growing. But most importantly, our influence in Hawaii is growing.
GRIH: KITV Interview