The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Fox National TV News Shines Light on Campaign to Save the Delta Queen

Posted on July 21, 2008 at 11:51 AM

Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume shined a national light upon the campaign to save the historic Delta Queen steamboat on Friday evening, July 18. Fox reported that the majestic steamboat is now scheduled to be retired despite its exemplary safety record, its undeniable status as a national historic treasure from the great days of Mark Twain, and its constructive economic impact in generating tourist dollars in the Mississippi Delta region.

WHY??? Fox correctly indicated that the real issue in efforts to kill the historic career of the Delta Queen concerns political efforts by Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota to maintain favor with a powerful union in his district that is at odds with the owners of the steamboat. A couple of years ago the Delta Queen was purchased by a new company that instituted a non-union policy, and the union that previously supplied the labor for the steamboat was angered by that. Congress has approved legislation allowing the Delta Queen to travel America’s inland waterways for over 40 years, and even Oberstar himself voted in favor of those legislative efforts a few years back, until the union-versus-ownership conflict emerged.

DELTA QUEEN HAS REPEATEDLY PASSED COAST GUARD SAFETY INSPECTIONS WITH FLYING COLORS: The problem with Oberstar’s opposition is that instead of being candid enough to acknowledge that he changed his position because of the Seafarers International Union’s conflict with the new owners, he is confusing matters by erroneously charging that the Delta Queen is some kind of terribly unsafe safety hazard, which is preposterous. He falsely stated on Fox News that the Coast Guard considers her a fire hazard, when quite to the contrary, the Coast Guard has repeatedly passed the Delta Queen in its safety inspections with flying colors.

See the video of this report by going to, then go to “Special Report w/Brit Hume,” under the “As Seen on ‘Special Report’” box, and click on the story, “Delta Queen Retiring? Calls to permanently dock the steamboat that is a piece of American history.”


We are working with a coalition ranging from Cincinnati, Ohio to New Orleans, and the Fox report and other media coverage have now provided powerful momentum for our efforts. Please stress the fact that the Delta Queen must be kept operating in her current capacity, bringing joy, education about the natural splendor and history of our region, as well as tourists and tourist dollars, to communities throughout the Delta and much of the rest of America’s heartland.

We have good reason to believe that someone is trying to buy the boat and tie her up as a static display, hotel or casino at one location, and we cannot let that happen.

*CONGRESS HAS SUPPORTED THE DELTA QUEEN FOR OVER 40 YEARS: * Congress has passed exemptions for over 40 years so that the Delta Queen can operate all up and down the Mississippi and its tributaries, plying inland waterways as far as Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and other states. The Safety at Seas Act was passed in 1966 in response to the tragic sinking of an old ocean liner, the SS Yarmouth Castle, in the Caribbean Sea. The Delta Queen is never minutes from land, the hull is made of steel–so it is misleading to call this an entirely wooden vessel–and the wood has been coated with fire-resistant paint, every room is equipped with heat and smoke detectors, and modern sprinkler and electronic monitoring systems have been installed.

Additionally, there are guards on duty who patrol the riverboat during the night. Also, like big cruise vessels, the Delta Queen’s passengers and crew undergo a fire and boat drill at the beginning of each cruise.

DELTA QUEEN IS A RIVERBOAT THAT IS PERFECTLY SAFE AND NEVER MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES FROM LAND: The Coast Guard personnel who have actually inspected the Delta Queen have given her very high marks, in keeping with her excellent safety record over an 80-year history. The only Coast Guard employees who might say anything along the lines of what Oberstar erroneously charged would be bureaucrats in Washington, DC who only know that ocean-going vessels should not be made of wood. But this is a riverboat with a steel hull and numerous safety precautions that operates on the Mississippi River and is never more than minutes from land, NOT the high seas.

The exemption expires in November, 2008, so our time is running out to save this jewel of the Great River.

CONTACT YOUR US SENATORS TO SAVE THE QUEEN: An effort in the House narrowly failed to defeat Rep. Oberstar’s ill-advised and erroneous effort to kill the Delta Queen. We need a similar effort in the Senate, where unfortunately Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii is also only concerned about the union’s conflict with the company and is as unconcerned as Rep. Oberstar about the travesty of killing this national historic treasure that educates people about our region and pumps much-needed tourist dollars into places like Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and other communities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois.

THE UNION IS AN IMPORTANT ORGANIZATION IN STATES OF OBERSTAR AND INOUYE: It is very easy for Rep. Oberstar and Sen. Inouye to take their positions. Rep. Oberstar represents a district around Duluth on Lake Superior, where the Seafarers International Union is very powerful regarding his efforts to gain reelection, and the Delta Queen’s travels are predominantly far to the South. He is posing as the great champion of “safety on the high seas??”, but what he is really doing is gaining favor with the union to assure his reelection effort.

Sen. Inouye similarly is indifferent about the Mississippi Delta region or the legacy of the Mark Twain era. International cruise lines are important for Hawaii’s vital tourist industry, and the safety, economic impact of the Delta Queen, and its priceless cultural and historical heritage obviously mean nothing to him or to Rep. Oberstar. We understand their political pressures from their constituents but they need to resolve this in a fair, just manner, rather than basing it on narrow, self-serving political calculations.

Please contact your US Senators and ask them to SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN, probably by adding an amendment to a bill that is coming out of another committee and is likely to pass–we should NOT try to go through the transportation committee that is chaired by Inouye, who is doing everything he can to make sure that this issue never gets to a fair vote. Many people have tried to reason with Rep. Oberstar and Sen. Inouye on this issue, but they are chairs of the relevant committees in the House and Senate and will obstruct every effort to do justice on this historic matter.

On many other issues Rep. Oberstar and Sen. Inouye may be fine Members of Congress, but they are just not able to be objective and fair in this instance, due to understandable political pressures in their states. We know that all Members of Congress are concerned about re-election and maintaining strong ties with powerful organizations in their states. But we would appeal to reasonable, objective Senators and Representatives who are not basically held hostage by this union versus company conflict. We do not have to take sides with either the union or the company, but they should resolve their differences in some way other than killing a treasure of American history, the Delta Queen.

Among the many supporters of the Delta Queen in our region are included Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), Rep. John Tanner and several other Representatives in Tennessee, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Sen. Richard Shelby (AL), and many other US Representatives in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and elsewhere. At the moment the key body is the US Senate.

Please ask your US Senators to take action now to save the Delta Queen. Lee Riley Powell, executive director, MDGC (202) 360-6347