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Indiana’s Carrier Factory Cuts Focused The “Trade” Election Issue

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

dave.johnsonSometimes an event comes along that crystallizes people’s awareness of an issue. It is just the right things at the right time. The layoffs at the Indianapolis Carrier air conditioner factory are an example of this kind of event.

The layoffs have focused many people’s feelings about our disastrous “trade” agreements that enable, even encourage, companies to move jobs and factories out of the country so that executives and Wall Street can pocket the wage and environmental-cost differential for themselves.

What Happened At Carrier?

In February air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier, a wing of United Technologies, announced that beginning next year it will move its Indianapolis production to Mexico and lay off the company’s U.S. workers. (It will also gut the factory’s suppliers and surrounding businesses.) The announcement was caught on video and went viral just as the presidential campaign was focusing on the disastrous effects of our country’s “trade” policies.

United Technologies reported $7.6 billion in profits for 2015. This was up from $6.2 billion in 2014. The company is spending $12 billion to purchase its own stock, which manipulates an increase in the stock price. That gives an idea of just how much cash the company has at its disposal. They use plenty of it to enrich executives, with their CEO getting almost $10 million in 2014 after getting more than $20 million in 2013.

Meanwhile, Mexico pays wages averaging $2.70 an hour for manufacturing jobs. By moving production there, the company, executives and Wall Street shareholders can pocket the wage differential. Carrier’s Indianapolis workers, suppliers, businesses, tax base, housing prices and job market? Too bad for them, but that’s not United Technology’s problem.

Workers Driven To “Outsiders” Sanders, Trump

Indiana’s presidential primary is Tuesday, and the Carrier layoffs have become an issue in the campaign. Zach Carter, reporting at The Huffington Post, in “Watch Corporate America Turn A Roomful Of Workers Into Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump Supporters,” writes about the effect of that video announcing the layoffs:

“Throughout the transition, we must remain committed to manufacturing the same high-quality products,” an executive can be heard insisting in a video of the announcement.

“Yeah, fuck you!” a member of the crowd responds.

“Please quiet down,” the official says. “This was an extremely difficult decision.”

“Was it?!”

In his report, Carter explains how this fits into the larger national discussion of “trade” and the effect our “trade” policies have had on jobs and incomes, and why this is a boost to Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s “outsider” campaigns:

Both Republicans and Democrats have consistently backed economic policies over the past 35 years that have systematically gutted the American middle class. For decades, Congress has listened to corporate lobbyists who told our representatives that if they could just cut this one tax rate, or just ease this one regulation, there would be a renaissance of prosperity. The renaissance has happened for the rich. Everyone else has been left behind.

The middle and working classes have been hit hard by these economic policies that favor the upper-end “donor class.” This “establishment” abandonment of America’s middle- and working-class voters is a “YUGE” issue in this year’s presidential election, driving the insurgent campaigns of Sanders and Trump. In an example of how the Carrier layoffs are driving this, The Indianapolis Star reported on Trump’s campaign announcement, in April’s “Trump opens Indiana campaign by blasting Carrier, Republican nominating process“:

“You’re looking at a situation where the jobs are being ripped out of our states, out of our country, like candy from a baby,” he said.

He lambasted massive layoffs at air conditioner manufacturer Carrier’s plant in Indianapolis. The company and its affiliates announced in February they would eliminate 2,100 Indiana jobs as they move production to Mexico. The layoffs have been a favorite target of Trump, who said Wednesday he would “tax the hell” out of the company.

“You’re going to bring it across the border, and we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax,” he said. “Now within 24 hours they’re going to call back. ‘Mr. President, we’ve decided to stay. We’re coming back to Indianapolis.’”

While the economic picture moves many voters toward both Sanders and Trump, it appears that Sanders is the once getting much of the support of the Carriers workers themselves. Dave Jamieson, also writing at HuffPo, has an article headlined “Union Representing Laid-Off Carrier Workers Endorses Bernie Sanders“:

The Carrier workers found themselves in the national spotlight after a video emerged in February that showed a company executive informing them that their jobs were going to Mexico. Since then, the Carrier story has worked its way into the stump speeches of presidential candidates on both the left and the right, as they have pilloried the company for its plans to offshore 2,100 jobs.

Workers at the plant are represented by the United Steelworkers Local 1999, based in Indianapolis. …

Hugunin said the union decided to back Sanders because of his consistency in opposing trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which removed trade barriers between the U.S. and Mexico.

With the Indiana primary on Tuesday, Sanders has been showing up and talking about the Carrier layoffs. Last week WFYI Indianapolis reported:

As many as a thousand union members and supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallied outside the Indiana Statehouse Friday in support of laid-off Carrier factory workers.

Sanders’ last-minute appearance at the protest came days before Tuesday’s primary election, where the Carrier story has taken center stage.

The diverse crowd on the statehouse lawn wielded signs reading “Keep it made in America” and “Save our jobs, stop corporate greed,” and chanted union slogans like “stand up, fight back.”

Many of them were there just for Sanders, who gave an energetic speech calling Carrier’s plans to close its Indianapolis factory and move 1,400 jobs to Mexico “unbelievable.”

We will see after the polls close Tuesday know how this affects the Indiana primary.

Racing To The Bottom

Moving jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries impoverishes American workers and devastates entire regions of the country, while enriching executives and Wall Street shareholders. Our country used to “protect” our democracy with its good wages and environmental protections by assessing a tariff on goods coming from countries that exploit workers and the environment. This prevented the cost savings gained from this kind of exploitation from undermining American workers and their quality of life.

Since “free trade” ideology took hold in the 1970s, undoing these protections and allowing companies to move production out of the country, our country has had a trade deficit every single year, and American workers have not seen a wage increase. Wall Street’s share of the economy (and political power) has soared while manufacturing’s (and workers’) share has declined. Inequality has accelerated.

This kind of “trade” trade-off is often justified as good for the workers in the low-wage countries. However, Reuters provides an example of how this just is not the case:

But the same low wages that help make manufacturers competitive are a long-term drag on the economy.

[ …] Low wages are a huge incentive for both Mexican and foreign firms. One in seven Mexican workers earn the average minimum wage of 65.58 pesos ($5.10) a day or less, national statistics office INEGI says. The average hourly wage in Mexico – home to Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men – is 31.3 pesos ($2.43).

Manufacturing workers fare better with wages averaging about $2.70 an hour but they make up only 16 percent of the labor force and their pay is way below the $19.50 per hour in the United States, figures from INEGI and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

[ …] Mexico City’s center-left mayor Miguel Angel Mancera has called for a national debate on how to improve wages. “Could it be that the Mexican economy doesn’t grow because the level of income for workers is so low?” he said.

Summary: “Could it be that the Mexican economy doesn’t grow because the level of income for workers is so low?” Workers there are paid so little that they not only can’t afford to buy things made in the U.S., they can’t even get by in Mexico, and this is dragging down Mexico’s economy along with ours.

Workers here are left fighting each other for the remaining low-wage jobs. Entire regions of our country are left devastated – Flint and Detroit, Mich., and the rest of the Rust Belt. “Free trade” has delivered nothing but misery and destruction to so many … but made a very few people enormously wealthy. The public is sick and tired of the “establishment” that brought this on us.

Or, as Atrios put it Monday,

This is the simple fact that our political class (who are mostly rich) fails to grapple with. I think they see the world as a combination of the way their peers see it (and they’re mostly rich!), some 30 year old vision of Middle Class America, and The Poors. They don’t get that middle class America are increasingly becoming like the poors. Maybe a bit more money, maybe a bit better lifestyle, but living paycheck to paycheck with student debt and one financial (medical, etc..) event away from nothing.

… I’m sure we can throw a few more credits into the tax code and that will solve everything.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe a few more tax credits for the already-wealthy will fix everything. Maybe another “trade” deal encouraging even more factories to move somewhere else will fix everything. After all, prices will be even lower as more things are made and done by exploited workers in places that don’t protect the environment. What could go wrong?

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on May 3, 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.

 

Kansas Republicans Again Stab Workers, And Democracy, In The Back

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

poole-60x60Once again, that conservative maxim about the government that’s closest to the people serves the people best was thrown out the window by conservatives when it comes to protecting the interests of workers against the abuses of businesses.

The latest example is Kansas, which just passed a law that said that local governments could not pass laws regulating just-in-time work scheduling, the practice of scheduling workers for shifts with as little as a few hours notice. The practice makes it impossible for workers on such schedules to plan to work second jobs or attend classes during their off hours. Employers who engage in this real-time scheduling expect workers to be on call, uncompensated, for when they might be called to work.

Workers subjected to these kinds of schedules often do not know how many hours of work they will have each week – and thus can’t predict how much they earn.

The bill, passed by the overwhelmingly Republican legislature and sent to ultraconservative Sen. Sam Brownback, pre-empts local governments in other areas as well, including their ability to impose nutritional labeling or content laws (thus a jurisdiction could not require restaurants to post the caloric content of their food) and their ability to police real estate transactions or rental inspections.

It is a continuation of a trend that has picked up momentum in recent years as more harshly conservative state legislatures have opted to clamp down on the ability of progressive enclaves in their states to govern their jurisdictions as they see fit.

That happened recently in North Carolina, where a state law was passed to invalidate local LGBT-rights ordinances. North Carolina is also one of 19 states that have laws on the books telling cities that they cannot pass their own minimum-wage laws. The list – compiled by the National Employment Law Project – is a rogue’s gallery of worker-unfriendly states: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

What the Kansas legislature was attempting to prevent was the spread of laws like one that passed last year in San Francisco, the “Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment for Formula Retail Employees Ordinance.” According to this fact sheet, the ordinance requires larger employers to post work schedules for employees at least two weeks in advance and requires employers to give due consideration to employee requests for changes. If an employer makes last-minute changes to the work schedule or requires a worker to be on call but does not actually summon the worker to work, the ordinance sets out how the worker is to be compensated for his or her time.

The organization A Better Balance has been fighting to get a bill called the Schedules That Work Act passed at the federal level. You can imagine the uphill battle getting such legislation passed nationally will be, when conservative legislatures won’t even allow democratically elected local officials to rein in the abuses against workers within their municipal boundaries.

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on May 2, 2016, Reprinted with permission.

Isaiah Poole Worked at Campaign for America’s Future, attended Pennsylvania State University, and lives in Washington, DC.

Wal-Mart Killed At Least 400,000 Jobs In A Dozen Years, While The Waltons Got Richer

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

If you want to know why a political revolution is necessary (and why the status quo’s most intellectually fraudulent campaign in recent Democratic primaries is such a threat to working people), you need only check out this new report from our friends at the Economic Policy Institute. Wal-Mart (that would be the board the status quo candidate sat on without uttering a peep while millions of women were discriminated against and the Waltons pursued their middle-class killing business plan) essentially obliterated, conservatively, 400,000 jobs in a decade or so.

Here’s how:

This paper updates earlier work (Scott 2007) to provide a conservative estimate of how many jobs have likely been displaced by Chinese imports entering the country through Wal-Mart:

  • Chinese imports entering through Wal-Mart in 2013 likely totaled at least $49.1 billion and the combined effect of imports from and exports to China conducted through Wal-Mart likely accounted for 15.3 percent of the growth of the total U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

  • The Wal-Mart-based trade deficit with China alone eliminated or displaced over 400,000 U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2013.

  • The manufacturing sector and its workers have been hardest hit by the growth of Wal-Mart’s imports. Wal-Mart’s increased trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated 314,500 manufacturing jobs, 75.7 percent of the jobs lost from Wal-Mart’s trade deficit. These job losses are particularly destructive because jobs in the manufacturing sector pay higher wages and provide better benefits than most other industries, especially for workers with less than a college education.

  • Wal-Mart has announced plans to create opportunities for American manufacturing by “investing in American jobs.” To date, very few actual U.S. jobs have been created by this program, and since 2001, the growing Wal-Mart trade deficit with China has displaced more than 100 U.S. jobs for every actual or promised job created through this program.

China has achieved its rapidly growing trade surpluses by manipulating its currency: it invests hundreds of billions of dollars per year in U.S. Treasury bills, other government securities, and private foreign assets to bid up the value of the dollar and other currencies and thereby lower the cost of its exports to the United States and other countries. China has also repressed the labor rights of its workers and suppressed their wages, making its products artificially cheap and further subsidizing its exports. Wal-Mart has aided China’s abuse of labor rights and its violations of internationally recognized norms of fair trade by providing a vast and ever-expanding conduit for the distribution of artificially cheap and subsidized Chinese exports to the United States. [emphasis added]

And:

Since Wal-Mart’s exports to China were negligible, the rapid growth of its imports had a proportionately bigger impact on the U.S. trade deficit and job losses than overall U.S. trade flows with China (since the rest of U.S. trade with China does include significant U.S. exports to that country). On average, each of the 4,835 stores Wal-Mart operated in the United States in fiscal 2014 (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 2014) was responsible for the loss of about 86 U.S. jobs due to the growth of Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

So, if for some reason, you shop at Wal-Mart, think about each of those workers whose job you helped eliminate by supporting this scar on the economy. While middle-class jobs disappear and people become even more impoverished, forcing them to shop at Wal-Mart, the Waltons became the richest family in the country, with $149 billion in wealth for six people.

Be my guest: continue to believe the fraudulent rhetoric coming from the status quo. Continue to live in a dream world and ignore the reality, and the record, continue to embrace the most amazing individual cognitive dissonance imaginable and fawn over a fraud in complete ignorance of the facts laid out.

And, then, don’t be surprised and weep when Wal-Mart grows, poverty widens and nothing changes.

This blog originally appeared in workinglife.org on December 22, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Jonathan Tasini is the president of the Economic Future Group, a consultancy that has worked in a couple of dozen countries on five continents over the past 20 years.  Hiss goal is to find the “white spaces” that need filling, the places to make connections and create projects to enhance the great work many people do to advance a better world. He is also publisher/editor of Working Life.

Obama administration cracking down on bosses who use temp workers to dodge labor laws

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Businesses don’t just use temp staffing agencies to add workers for short periods when they need extra hands. Staffing agencies can also serve the valuable (to crappy employers) purpose of dodging responsibility. “That person may work in our business on our terms, but the staffing agency is their employer, so we’re not responsible for violating labor laws to exploit them,” is how the dodge basically goes. Now, the Department of Labor is taking steps against that, issuing guidelines on when the company using the staffing agency to hire temp workers should be considered a joint employer that’s responsible for the people working in its facilities.

“I think the majority of noncompliance that we see is people just not getting what the law is, and what their responsibilities are under it,” [Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division director David] Weil said in an interview. “We also find cases of people who are clearly playing games, and clearly trying to shift out responsibility, and often have structured things in a way that lead towards more noncompliance.”

Weil’s division has stepped up its proactive enforcement of situations where companies are functionally controlling the workers they order up from labor providers — and broadcasts its enforcement of egregious violations. Back in October, for example, investigators found that temp workers at a snack food producer in New Jersey were cheated out of overtime wages, and ordered the company to pay back wages, damages, and civil penalties.

That’s the most typical form of joint employment — a “vertical” arrangement, with one company hiring another, as the guidance describes. But joint employment can also be “horizontal,” when a worker might employed by two subsidiaries of the same company, but they never get overtime because their hours are tracked separately.

Business groups and congressional Republicans are predictably pissed that the Obama administration would have the nerve to suggest that employers follow the law, with House Republicans pointing out that the Department of Labor talked to the National Labor Relations Board, which is also cracking down on joint employer issues.

Low-road businesses have found a lot of ways around laws protecting workers, from these joint employer dodges to misclassifying workers as independent contractors to deny them minimum wage and overtime protections, unemployment insurance, and more. And every time the Obama administration cracks down, it’s a reminder of what’s at stake this November. The next president won’t just argue with Congress or even appoint Supreme Court justices. The next president will make the appointments that determine whether the Department of Labor is trying to make sure workers get paid for the hours they work or is looking for ways to let bad bosses off the hook.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 20, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

Wal-Mart Killed At Least 400,000 Jobs In A Dozen Years, While The Waltons Got Richer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

jonathan-tasiniIf you want to know why a political revolution is necessary (and why the status quo’s most intellectually fraudulent campaign in recent Democratic primaries is such a threat to working people), you need only check out this new report from our friends at the Economic Policy Institute. Wal-Mart (that would be the board the status quo candidate sat on without uttering a peep while millions of women were discriminated against and the Waltons pursued their middle-class killing business plan) essentially obliterated, conservatively, 400,000 jobs in a decade or so.

Here’s how:

This paper updates earlier work (Scott 2007) to provide a conservative estimate of how many jobs have likely been displaced by Chinese imports entering the country through Wal-Mart:

  • Chinese imports entering through Wal-Mart in 2013 likely totaled at least $49.1 billion and the combined effect of imports from and exports to China conducted through Wal-Mart likely accounted for 15.3 percent of the growth of the total U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

  • The Wal-Mart-based trade deficit with China alone eliminated or displaced over 400,000 U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2013.

  • The manufacturing sector and its workers have been hardest hit by the growth of Wal-Mart’s imports. Wal-Mart’s increased trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated 314,500 manufacturing jobs, 75.7 percent of the jobs lost from Wal-Mart’s trade deficit. These job losses are particularly destructive because jobs in the manufacturing sector pay higher wages and provide better benefits than most other industries, especially for workers with less than a college education.

  • Wal-Mart has announced plans to create opportunities for American manufacturing by “investing in American jobs.” To date, very few actual U.S. jobs have been created by this program, and since 2001, the growing Wal-Mart trade deficit with China has displaced more than 100 U.S. jobs for every actual or promised job created through this program.

China has achieved its rapidly growing trade surpluses by manipulating its currency: it invests hundreds of billions of dollars per year in U.S. Treasury bills, other government securities, and private foreign assets to bid up the value of the dollar and other currencies and thereby lower the cost of its exports to the United States and other countries. China has also repressed the labor rights of its workers and suppressed their wages, making its products artificially cheap and further subsidizing its exports. Wal-Mart has aided China’s abuse of labor rights and its violations of internationally recognized norms of fair trade by providing a vast and ever-expanding conduit for the distribution of artificially cheap and subsidized Chinese exports to the United States. [emphasis added]

And:

Since Wal-Mart’s exports to China were negligible, the rapid growth of its imports had a proportionately bigger impact on the U.S. trade deficit and job losses than overall U.S. trade flows with China (since the rest of U.S. trade with China does include significant U.S. exports to that country). On average, each of the 4,835 stores Wal-Mart operated in the United States in fiscal 2014 (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 2014) was responsible for the loss of about 86 U.S. jobs due to the growth of Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

So, if for some reason, you shop at Wal-Mart, think about each of those workers whose job you helped eliminate by supporting this scar on the economy. While middle-class jobs disappear and people become even more impoverished, forcing them to shop at Wal-Mart, the Waltons became the richest family in the country, with $149 billion in wealth for six people.

Be my guest: continue to believe the fraudulent rhetoric coming from the status quo. Continue to live in a dream world and ignore the reality, and the record, continue to embrace the most amazing individual cognitive dissonance imaginable and fawn over a fraud in complete ignorance of the facts laid out.

And, then, don’t be surprised and weep when Wal-Mart grows, poverty widens and nothing changes.

This blog originally appeared in Working Life on December 9, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Jonathan Tasini. Some basics: I’m a political/organizing/economic strategist. President of the Economic Future Group, a consultancy that has worked in a couple of dozen countries on five continents over the past 20 years; my goal is to find the “white spaces” that need filling, the places to make connections and create projects to enhance the great work many people do to advance a better world. I’m also publisher/editor of Working Life. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out more than a decade ago, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays (slacker), with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995). I’m currently working on two news books.

China Protects its Workers; America Doesn’t Bother

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Leo GerardConfronted with a dire situation, a world power last week took strong action to secure its domestic jobs and manufacturing.

That was China. Not the United States.

China diminished the value of its currency.  This gave its exporting industries a boost while simultaneously blocking imports. The move protected the Asian giant’s manufacturers and its workers’ jobs.

Currency manipulation violates free market principles, but for China, doing it makes sense. The nation’s economy is cooling. Its stock market just crashed, and its economic powerhouse – exports – declined a substantial 8.3 percent in July ­– down to $195 billion from $213 billionthe previous July. This potent action by a major economic competitor raises the question of when the United States government is going to stop pretending currency manipulation doesn’t exist. When will the United States take the necessary action to protect its industry, including manufacturing essential to national defense, as well as the good, family-supporting jobs of millions of manufacturing workers?

While China lowered the value of its currency on three consecutive days last week, for a total of 4.4 percent, the largest decline in two decades, a respected Washington think tank, theEconomic Policy Institute, released a report detailing exactly how the United States lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.

The report, “Manufacturing Job Loss: Trade, Not Productivity is the Culprit,” clearly links massive trade deficits to closed American factories and killed American jobs. U.S. manufacturers lost ground to foreign competitors whose nations facilitated violation of international trade rules. China is a particular culprit. My union, the United Steelworkers, has won trade case after trade case over the past decade, securing sanctions called duties that are charged on imported goods to counteract the economic effect of violations.

In the most recent case the USW won, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) finalized duties in July on illegally subsidized Chinese tires dumped into the U.S. market. The recent history of such sanctions on tires illustrates how relentless the Chinese government is in protecting its workers.

Shortly after President Obama took office, the USW filed a complaint about illegally-subsidized, Chinese-made tires dumped into the U.S. market. The Obama administration imposed duties on Chinese tire imports from September 2009 to September 2012.

Immediately after the tariffs ended, Chinese companies flooded the U.S. market with improperly subsidized tires again, threatening U.S. tire plants and jobs. So the USW filed the second complaint.

Though the USW workers won the second case as well, the process is too costly and too time consuming. Sometimes factories and thousands of jobs are permanently lost before a case is decided in workers’ favor. This has happened to U.S. tire, paper, auto parts and steel workers.

In addition, the process is flawed because it forbids consideration of currency manipulation – the device China used last week to support its export industries.

By reducing the value of its currency, China, in effect, gave its export industries discount coupons, enabling them to sell goods more cheaply overseas without doing anything differently or better. Simultaneously, China marked up the price of all imports into the country. American and European exporters did nothing bad or wrong, but now their products will cost more in China.

Chinese officials have contended that the devaluation, which came on the heels of the bad news about its July exports, wasn’t deliberate. They say it reflected bad market conditions and note that groups like the International Monetary Fund have been pushing China to make its currency more market based.

Right. Sure. And it was nothing more than a coincidence that it occurred just as China wanted to increase exports. And it was simply serendipity that in just three days, “market conditions” wiped out four years of tiny, painfully incremental increases in the currency’s value.

If the value of the currency truly is market based and not controlled by the government, then as Chinese exports rise, the value should increase. That would eliminate the artificial discount China just awarded its exported goods. Based on past history, that is not likely to happen. So what China really is saying is that its currency is market based when the value is declining but not when it rises.

China did what it felt was right for its people, its industry and its economy. The country hit a rough spot this year. Though its economy is expected to grow by 7 percent, that would be theslowest rate in six years. Its housing prices fell 9.8 percent in June. Car sales dropped 7 percent in July, the largest decline since the Great Recession. Over the past several months, the Chinese government has intervened repeatedly to try to stop a massive stock market crash that began in June.

In the meantime, the nation’s factories that make products like tires, auto parts, steel and paper continue to operate full speed ahead and ship the excess overseas. As a result, for example, the international market is flooded with underpriced Chinese steel, threatening American steel mills and tens of thousands of American steelworkers’ jobs.

This is bad for the U.S. economy. The U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose 15.7 percent ­– by $25.7 billion ­– in the first quarter as imports increased and exports slipped. In the first half of this year, the trade deficit with China rose 9.8 percent, a total of $15 billion.

As EPI points out, that means more U.S. factories closed and U.S. jobs lost. If China had bombed thousands of U.S. factories over the past decade, America would respond. But the nation has done virtually nothing about thousands of factories closed by trade violations.

The United States could take two steps immediately to counter the ill-effects of currency manipulation. Congress could pass and President Obama could sign a proposed customs enforcement bill. It would classify deliberate currency undervaluation as an illegal export subsidy. Then the manipulation could be countered with duties on the imported products.

The second step would be to include sanctions for currency manipulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that the administration is negotiating with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The deal doesn’t include China, but it could join later. The deal does, however, include other countries notorious for currency interventions.

American manufacturers and American workers demand rightful protection from predatory international trade practices.

This blog originally appeared at OurFuture.org on August 18, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), took office in 2001 after the retirement of former president George Becker.

Grocery Chain’s Financial Meltdown Could Leave Thousands of Union Workers Jobless

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Bruce VailPlans to dismember the A&P supermarket chain were revealed in a federal bankruptcy court in New York this week, with dire results predicted for more than 15,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.

The historic grocery retailer—the original Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. was formed back in 1859—intends to sell or close all of its 300 stores spread across six Mid-Atlantic states, according to documents filed Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The plan will affect every one of an estimated 30,000 UFCW members currently employed with the company, with more than half of those in real danger of losing their jobs soon, union officials say.

The bad news for the union was partially tempered with the announcement that A&P had already lined up the sale of 120 of its stores to other regional grocery chains that also have UFCW contracts. If those sales go forward as planned, most of the 12,500 union members at those 120 stores would be expected to retain their jobs under the new owners. The prospective buyers—ACME Markets, Ahold USA (operator of Stop & Shop) and Key Food—already have UFCW collective bargaining agreements covering the 120 stores in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey (A&P stores are also located in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland).

But those plans don’t include any future employment for workers at the other 180 stores, including 25 that A&P says it will seek to close immediately. All sales or closures are subject to approval by Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain, and the process of selling off or closing stores is expected to begin soon but drag out for months. ACME Markets, for example, issued a statement saying that it didn’t expect to finalize purchase of any A&P stores until mid-October.

Very few union members were taken by surprise by these developments, says Wendell Young IV, President of UFCW Local 1776 in Philadelphia. A&P, which also operates under the trade names of Pathmark, Waldbaums and Superfresh, has been ailing financially for years, he says, and underwent a painful bankruptcy reorganization in 2010-2012.

“I’ve been telling my members for two years that I didn’t think A&P was going to make it. We’ve been doing everything we can as a union to be prepared for this,” he tells In These Times.

The final demise of A&P was signaled last September, Young comtinues, when company executives announced a debt refinancing package that failed to include any new investment in the company. Rumors swept the supermarket industry soon afterwards that executives were intent on dismembering the company by selling off its valuable pieces, and discarding the rest, he says.

Young adds that part of the union preparation has been to revive a coalition of 12 separate UFCW locals with A&P contracts. Supported by legal experts and financial resources from the UFCW International headquarters in Washington, D.C., the coalition was first formed in 2010 to present a united labor front in dealing with bankruptcy issues at that time. The coalition ceased active operation when A&P emerged from the first bankruptcy proceeding in 2012, but was revived in June as a crisis at A&P appeared imminent, Young says. UFCW Local 1500 in New York, with about 5,000 members employed with A&P, is one of the coalition members most affected by the bankruptcy.

UFCW Region 1 Director Tom Clarke, who heads the coalition, did not respond to In These Times calls seeking additional information and comment. Christopher McGarry, A&P’s Chief Administrative Officer, began the bankruptcy process by threatening the unions. In a declaration dated July 19 and filed with the court July 20. McGarry warned:

It is imperative that the parties cooperate with one another and that negotiations be conducted as expeditiously as possible. While the Debtors are committed to pursuing consensual resolutions with their unions where possible, if consensual resolutions cannot be quickly achieved within the required deadlines imposed…the Debtors will be required to commence proceedings under sections 1113 and 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code to seek authority to implement both temporary and permanent modifications to the CBAs on a unilateral basis.

Section 1113 is the section of the bankruptcy code commonly used to cancel or revise labor contracts, even without any agreement from unions or union members. The coalition will resist any attempts by A&P to use bankruptcy law to cancel existing UFCW collective bargaining agreements. “If the process is to be the orderly sale or closure of all the stores, then there is no need to cancel any contracts. The union is fully prepared to negotiate decent contracts with any of the new owners, and in the case of store closings, the existing contracts should be honored by all the parties,” Young says.

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on July 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Bruce Vail. Bruce Vail is a Baltimore-based freelance writer with decades of experience covering labor and business stories for newspapers, magazines and new media. He was a reporter for Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report, covering collective bargaining issues in a wide range of industries, and a maritime industry reporter and editor for the Journal of Commerce, serving both in the newspaper’s New York City headquarters and in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

This week in the war on workers: New Balance presses the Pentagon to move on US-made sneakers

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Laura ClawsonBuying American-made products is a good way to support jobs. If you’re looking for American-made shoes, New Balance is one of your major options. And the shoe company is pushing the U.S. military on that:

Massachusetts-based shoe company New Balance says that the military is dragging its feet on a promise it made to outfit soldiers with American-made shoes.  The promise came in April of 2014 when the military announced it would honor the Berry Amendment, a 1941 law requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to give priority to American goods.  The Department of Defense had previously argued that sneakers were not part of the official uniform and therefore not subject to the Berry amendment.More than a year later it seems little progress has been made. New Balance claims retaliation while the military claims the transition is moving at an acceptable speed. Other apparel companies who have done business with the DoD have come to the military’s defense using the backhanded compliment that they really do move that slow.

(That second paragraph seems like it belongs in a “this week in weak defenses” round up.) Sneakers by New Balance are undergoing an extensive testing process now; Saucony says it’s working on a sneaker that might ultimately be used by the military.

This blog was originally posted on Daily Kos on July 11, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Laura Clawson. Laura has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

Jobs Report: Flat Wages, Shrinking Workforce

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Robert-Borosage_The June Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report shows continued growth — 223,000 new jobs added with the official unemployment rate declining to 5.3%. Jobs growth remains steady — rising for 57 straight months, now setting a new record each month – but slow, lagging previous recoveries.   The decline in the unemployment rate was largely due to 432,000 people leaving the labor force, reversing the increase that took place in May.

The headline unemployment figure is always misleading. Nearly 17 million people are still in need of full-time work. Long-term unemployment has declined, but remains higher than before the great recession. The employment-population ratio has also not recovered, remaining at 59.3%, marginally lower than a year ago. The portion of the working age population that is employed or wants a job, the labor force participation rate, declined last month and is lower than a year ago. This is not a picture of robust growth.

The BLS reports are important largely as signposts for the Federal Reserve and its pending decision on when to raise interest rates. Fed Chair Janet Yellen sensibly has been focused on disappointing wage growth and looking for “additional strength in the labor market.” She won’t find much that is encouraging in this report.   In this month’s report, hourly wages showed no growth, with the yearly average up barely 2%, despite hikes in the minimum wage by more and more cities and states and more and more companies. Average hours worked remained steady.

Speculation is that the Federal Reserve is headed towards beginning to wage interest rates in September. Higher interest rates will be a drag on growth, jobs and thus wages. The Fed would be well advised to wait until more workers find jobs, and the greater demand for workers is reflected in continuing rising wages.

Government employment showed no increase. The US Congress continues to block any investment to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure at a time of record low interest rates. With the US able to borrow for virtually nothing, an investment in infrastructure, as Larry Summers argues, would pay for itself, with even a minimum return in efficiency. No business leader with a whit of sense would refuse to grasp this opportunity. Perhaps Donald Trump who has built his fortune by making far riskier bets with borrowed money could explain this to his colleagues.

Manufacturing employment showed little change, adding 4,000 jobs. For the president to meet his pledge of adding 1 million manufacturing jobs in his second term, he would have to average over 32,000 a month. This seems less and less likely, as manufacturing is weakened by our rising trade deficits, resulting from the strong dollar and our perverse trade policies that the president is intent on extending.  The economy has gained only 38,000 manufacturing jobs in the first six months of this year.

The economy continues to add jobs, which is an indisputably good thing. But the pace is slow, and little of the recovery is reaching most Americans. Surveys show that Americans are growing more optimistic about the economy. This is reflected in rising non-revolving consumer credit – significantly student and car loans – which is outpacing after-tax income growth. If the Fed raises interest rates, these debts will grow more costly, putting a crimp on consumer demand. Again, with the Congress refusing to act sensibly, the Fed has every reason to wait until wages are rising and more Americans are working before starting to put on the brakes.

This blog was originally posted on Our Future on July 2, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Robert Borosage. Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future. The organizations were launched by 100 prominent Americans to develop the policies, message and issue campaigns to help forge an enduring majority for progressive change in America. Mr. Borosage writes widely on political, economic and national security issues. He is a Contributing Editor at The Nation magazine, and a regular blogger at The Huffington Post. His articles have appeared in The American Prospect, The Washington Post,Tthe New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He edits the Campaign’s Making Sense issues guides, and is co-editor of Taking Back America (with Katrina Vanden Heuvel) and The Next Agenda (with Roger Hickey).

The Missing 3 Million

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

jonathan-tasiniI remain in the camp of people who are entirely unimpressed by the economic figures raved about by most pundits, economists and The White House. We all know that pay is not growing. But, there’s another thing to be concerned about: the missing 3.1 million workers. The rebound fans:

The American job market rebounded in April, the government said on Friday, helping to ease worries that the economy was on the brink of another extended slowdown after a bleak winter in which the overall economy stalled. But the growth in jobs failed to translate, once again, into any significant improvement in pay.

Uh, but wait a minute. What about a whole bunch of people who are off the radar screen? The Economic Policy Institute is hunting for the “missing workers”:

In today’s labor market, the unemployment rate drastically understates the weakness of job opportunities. This is due to the existence of a large pool of “missing workers”—potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor actively seeking a job. In other words, these are people who would be either working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger. Because jobless workers are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work, these “missing workers” are not reflected in the unemployment rate.[emphasis added]

What’s the number today?:

Total missing workers, April 2015: 3,140,000 Unemployment rate if missing workers were looking for work: 7.3%[emphasis added]

Which would mean the real unemployment rate–and I’m even leaving out the people who would like full-time work but can’t find it (but are counted as “employed”)–is double what the official number tells us. – See more at: http://www.workinglife.org/2015/05/08/the-missing-3-million/#sthash.m22tUoHe.dpuf

This blog was originally posted on Working Life on May 8, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Jonathan Tasini. Some basics: I’m a political/organizing/economic strategist. President of the Economic Future Group, a consultancy that has worked in a couple of dozen countries on five continents over the past 20 years; my goal is to find the “white spaces” that need filling, the places to make connections and create projects to enhance the great work many people do to advance a better world. I’m also publisher/editor of Working Life. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out more than a decade ago, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays (slacker), with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995). I’m currently working on two news books. My organizational life has brought me the gift of working with many talented, committed people over the past 30 years, principally during the 13 years I had the honor to serve as president of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981). Aside from that, it’s baseball, and counting the winter days until pitchers and catchers report.

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