There's an incredible amount of self-serving legislative activity in this Country that's just not appreciated by its citizens. I tripped over what I believe is a good maritime example of this behind-the-curtain activity in the context of the seaman's wage penalty statute.
Unpaid (or late paid) crew members typically and with some exceptions may rely on a unique federal statute entitling recovery of their back pay plus penalty pay. Anyway, by my understanding, during the last approximately ten years some vessel owners have had to defend against various class action lawsuits seeking wage penalties in connection with their crew. Without commenting on the merit of any of these lawsuits, it's interesting that 'lo in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 we see language included amending the seaman's wage penalty statute. Among other things, a cap limiting the amount of the penalty is inserted as well as a limitation on the time by which such class action lawsuits must be brought. There's other tinkering that's done to the language which, in my personal opinion, does not benefit an unpaid crewmember.
Who knows, maybe this language was simply in the pipeline, but I sort of think not. I sort of think this is an example of the powerful forces at work which shape and mold our Country's laws. Without researching the legislative history, we'll just have to guess at who championed corporate rights over those of seafarers.
Underway and making way.
By John Fulweiler
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