Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘Trade’ Category

Enormous, Humongous $42.6 Billion October Trade Deficit Is Unbalanced

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday that the October trade deficit rose to $42.6 billion from a enormous and humongous 36.2 billion in September. That’s a 17.8 percent increase.

October exports were down $3.4 billion and imports were up $3.0 billion. The goods deficit with China also increased, hitting $28.9 billion in October.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM),

“The trade deficit is a drag on growth and jobs in the goods-producing sector. It is one signal of weakness that speaks to our challenges in global competition.

“It will take more than a Carrier deal to save jobs here and bring some home. For that, we need aggressive economic policies, including a rebalance on trade policy, a tax code friendly to manufacturing and patient capital, and investments in our infrastructure, research, and workers.”

Trade Deficit Damage Led To Trump

A trade deficit drains jobs, communities, tax revenues, and entire industrial ecosystems. A trade deficit is a deficit in people’s jobs and livelihoods. Forty straight years of trade deficits was also forty straight years of a system that treated working people like “economic units” to be used up and discarded instead of treating people like people. So the people finally reacted.

Forty straight years of trade deficits is a big part of what led to Trump.

Mike Konczal, in Learning From Trump in Retrospect, explains:

… [T]he divide among economists on trade is driven by the fact that labor economists study the real effects of unemployment on real people, where trade and macroeconomists treat people as just another commodity. …

I’d phrase it this way: are people just like a barrel of oil? In the abstract models of trade economists, commodities like oil will always get sold at some price, they will get to where they need to get to do so, and they’re largely indifferent on the process. Even when commodity markets are off, oil can sit in tankers floating in the ocean waiting out price moves, and it makes no difference to the oil.

Oil doesn’t experience unemployment as the most traumatic thing that can happen to it. Oil moves magically to new opportunities, unlike people who don’t often move at all. A barrel of oil doesn’t beat their kids, abuse drugs, commit suicide, or experiencing declining life expectancy from being battered around in the global marketplace. But people do, and they have, the consequences persist and last, and now they’ve made their voices heard. It’s the the dark side of Polanyi’s warning against viewing human being as commodities.

Balanced Trade Resolution In Congress

Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) have filed a House Resolution (H.Con.Res.175) to make balanced trade a national goal with a special emphasis on manufacturing and goods.

The resolution states, in part:

Whereas the United States has run 40 consecutive years of trade deficits;

Whereas the trade deficit of the United States has substantially increased in the last 25 years;

Whereas the overall trade deficit of the United States in 2015 was $532 billion, including a deficit of $758 billion in trade in goods;

Whereas the manufacturing sector of the United States has suffered a disproportionate impact from such trade deficits, resulting in substantial losses of jobs and industries;

… Whereas trade imbalances are unhealthy for the global economy and stagnate economic growth in deficit countries such as the United States and especially in the manufacturing sectors of such countries;

… Whereas persistent trade deficits hinder the ability of the United States to reach full employment and increase underemployment and reliance on low-wage and often part-time service sector jobs;

… That it is the sense of Congress that Congress and the President should prioritize the reduction and elimination, over a reasonable period of time, of the overall trade deficit of the United States.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) is “a nonprofit organization representing the interests of 2.7 million households through our agricultural, manufacturing and labor members.” CPA focuses on trade issues and promotes balancing trade.

CPA is sending out the word to Click here to tell your Representative to sign on to the Lipinski/Brooks balanced trade resolution.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on December 6, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

Politicians Keep Promising Free Trade Agreements Can Protect Workers. We Should Stop Believing Them.

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Leo GerardIt’s all the rage now for Republican presidential candidates to spurn the Royal Romney approach and, instead, to fawn over workers.

When former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announced his presidential bid last week, he did it from a factory floor and called for increasing the minimum wage. Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who also launched his candidacy last week, named as his political inspiration Teddy Roosevelt, a corporate trust-buster and working class hero. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who entered the race in April, said that to win elections, “You’ve got to get the people who work for the people who own businesses.”

That is true—if the businesses are in America. There’s not much point in American candidates soliciting votes from workers at factories that U.S. corporations closed here and moved overseas with the help of free trade agreements (FTAs). Decade after decade of free trade, presidents promised workers that the deals set the highest standards for labor. And decade after decade, the federal government failed at enforcement, placing Americans in competition with child laborers, underpaid and overburdened foreign workers and victims of human trafficking.

On trade, Sen. Paul got it right for working people. He opposed Fast Tracking approval of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. He was on the losing side of that vote, though. So the Fast Track plan for Congress to relinquish its responsibility to review and amend trade agreements awaits action this week in the U.S. House of Representatives. House Republicans who believe in supporting American workers, not just pandering to them, should join Sen. Paul in voting no on Fast Track.

From Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, Republican and Democratic presidents have pledged to workers that some new free trade scheme would protect Americans from unfair and immoral foreign competition.

Clinton claimed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the first deal ever containing teeth to enforce labor standards. George W. Bush’s U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) contended the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) had the strongest labor provisions ever negotiated. Obama administration officials assured Americans that the Peru, Colombia and Panama agreements, and now the TPP, have the greatest worker protections of all time.

They all swore the standards would be strictly enforced. But none of it was true. The deals did not protect American workers. And they didn’t protect foreign workers either.

Now American workers overwhelmingly oppose the free trade brand of globalization. They’ve seen its terrible results for them. They’ve suffered as corporations closed American factories, destroyed American jobs and communities, and shipped that work overseas.

Americans have found themselves competing with children coerced to work in foreign factories, trafficked and forced labor, and foreign workers so mistreated that they jump to their deaths from factory buildings. American consumers find themselves buying products made in unsafe buildings that collapse or burn, killing thousands of foreign workers.

The USTR, who is supposed to enforce the labor provisions of trade agreements, along with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of State, has failed. That’s according to two reviews by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). After a damning GAO report in 2009, the USTR promised action. A second GAO analysis in 2014 reported little change.

Here’s the bottom line from that report: “Since 2009, USTR and DOL, with State’s assistance, have taken steps intended to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FTA partners’ compliance with FTA labor provisions, but their monitoring and enforcement remains limited.”

In other words, no matter what those agreements say about labor, it’s not being enforced.

For example, five years after Guatemala entered CAFTA, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) named Guatemala the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. That’s because of the large number of union activists murdered, tortured, kidnapped and threatened there.

This was a startling development because Colombia had a lock on the inglorious title of most dangerous for years. Colombia dropped from first place even while murders of trade unionists continued there.

Since Colombia finalized a free trade agreement with the U.S. in 2011, two dozen Colombians trying to improve the lives and wages of workers through collective bargaining have been murdered every year. And these murders are committed with impunity. There are virtually never arrests or convictions for killing trade unionists in Colombia. Colombia’s trade deal with the U.S. and its “enforcement” by the USTR, DOL and the State Department have done nothing to change that.

And as in Guatemala, trade union activists in Colombia continue to be threatened, tortured and kidnapped. The free trade agreement is no shield for them. For example, a paramilitary group threatened the daughters of Martha Cecilia Suarez, the president of the Santander public servants association.

In 2013, the paramilitary group Comando Urbano de los Rastrojos sent her two dolls marked with her daughters’ names. They were covered in red paint, one missing a leg, the other an arm.

The 14 free trade agreements that the United States has signed with 20 countries contain provisions allowing groups or individuals to file complaints about such violations of the labor standards. The 2014 evaluation by the GAO suggests that only a tiny number of complaints have been filed because the Labor Department has failed to inform stakeholders of this process and few within the foreign countries know about it.

The GAO also found that the Labor Department has failed to meet its own deadlines for investigating and resolving the complaints it has accepted. Serious allegations, including human trafficking and child labor, remain unsettled for years.

In addition to the critical 2014 GAO report, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren detailed the failure of the United States to implement FTA labor provisions in a report issued by her office late last month titled Broken Promises. It says, “the United States repeatedly fails to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards in free trade agreements.”

Admittedly, this is a titanic challenge. What the United States is trying to do is tell other countries, often ones far less wealthy, how their businesses should treat workers. The United States hardly would take kindly to Guatemala telling it that the U.S. minimum wage is so low that it amounts to forced labor.

But president after president has promised American workers that the United States will compel foreign nations to meet high labor standards established in FTAs.

They haven’t accomplished that. They probably can’t. They should stop saying it. And American workers and politicians should stop buying it. The United States can sign trade agreements with countries after they stop murdering trade unionists and countenancing child labor. Entering agreements with countries that permit these grotesque practices demeans American workers and consumers.

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on June 2, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Leo Gerard. Leo W. Gerard is the president of the United Steelworkers International union, part of the AFL-CIO. Gerard, the second Canadian to lead the union, started working at Inco’s nickel smelter in Sudbury, Ontario at age 18. For more information about Gerard, visit usw.org.

Your Rights Job Survival The Issues Features Resources About This Blog