Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

So MANY Op-Eds Pushing Corporate “Free Trade”

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Dave JohnsonBernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s campaign criticisms of our country’s disastrous trade policies are resonating with voters. In response there has been a flurry – a blizzard – of op-eds from noted celebrity, “establishment” pundits, explaining that moving millions of jobs out of the country is good for us because it means lower prices for those who still have paychecks. They sell these lower prices as a “free lunch” that we will never have to pay for.

These opinion pieces present corporate-negotiated trade as an all-or-nothing proposition, as if there were no balanced, fair-trade alternative approaches we could take instead. In these op-eds, proponents of fair-trade agreements are called “anti-trade,” even “anti-commerce.” Many of them not only repeat the same arguments, they actually even use the same words.

This week’s Fact-Check This: Arrogance Of Elites Helps Drive The Trump Phenomenonexplored Glenn Kessler’s “fact check” that awarded Trump “four Pinocchios” for claiming that our country’s corporate-negotiated trade policies and trade deficit are costing our country jobs, wages and wealth. Kessler wrote that the reason we import so much is that “Americans want to buy these products from overseas” when the reality is that companies move jobs and production out of the country to get around paying our country’s wages, taxes and environmental protection costs. (And we let them do that because … ?)

Last week’s Has The Election Finally Killed TPP And Corporate “Free Trade”? took on a Thomas Friedman op-ed promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):

It seems as though Thomas Friedman got in a cab driven by the head of the Chamber of Commerce … talking about how great a deal the TPP is, writing, “… if we eliminate 18,000 tariffs we’ll be able to keep more production at home and sell more abroad. [. . .] Our workers can compete if we level the playing field …” They’ll be buying a lot from us for sure with that $150 a month, you betcha. Meanwhile companies here that want to pay $150 a month will be closing factories and moving them there…

A Bunch More

Those were just a couple of examples, a flurry before the blizzard. Here are more.

Mark J. Perry, in “Trump is completely wrong about the U.S. trade deficit” at the Los Angeles Times, argues that our enormous, humongous $758.9 billion goods trade deficit is actually good for us, a free lunch that we will never have to pay for,

When American businesses and consumers voluntarily purchase more products from China than Chinese businesses and consumers buy from us, it does lead to a U.S. trade deficit with China. But the trade deficit can’t accurately be referred to a “loss,” because it’s based on millions of mutually agreeable individual exchanges that took place between a willing seller and a willing buyer.

In fact, you could make a strong case that China “lost” last year on trade with America, not vice versa. After all, we acquired $482 billion of merchandise made in China and they acquired only $116 billion of merchandise made in the U.S., for a net merchandise surplus of $366 billion in our favor. China “lost” a net amount of $366 billion of goods that ended up being consumed and enjoyed by Americans.

This batch of bamboozlement explains that if you’re a baker who makes a deal to “trade” by buying supplies from your neighbor in exchange for providing bread, and you buy flour and sugar from your neighbor who then presents you with a huge bill and says he used your money to set up his own bakery and advertise to your customers, this is a good thing, because now you have to come up with a way to pay that bill. Got it?

Robert J. Samuelson, writing at The Washington Post in Trade myths and realities, explains to us that moving so many jobs out of the country is good for us because the 2.4 million jobs lost to China in the last decade were only 2 percent of total payroll employment. (We lost way more than 2.4 million, but who’s counting?)

Samuelson explains that we export, and exports create jobs, ignoring the huge trade deficit that is the result of so many more imports than exports. Exports are great, but he ignores that trade must be balanced or it drains our country of jobs, wages and wealth. Worse, when imports exceed exports for decades we lose (and have lost) important parts of our overall manufacturing ecosystem. But who’s counting?

Cokie and Steve Roberts offer another rationalization for the lost jobs and wages, in “Don’t discount the benefits of trade.” They wrote, “There are always winners and losers, and the losers are both more visible and better organized.” (Laid-off workers are better organized than the Wall Street billionaires who get to pocket their paychecks?)

Their examples of their winners include, “the mom who buys cheap sneakers from Bangladesh.” Never mind the dangerous, near-slave conditions for workers in Bangladesh, and the downward pull on our own wages as Americans try to compete with that. (We could demand that Bangladesh pay decently and protect workers before we allow imports from there, but how would America’s corporate trade negotiators benefit from doing that?)

The Robertses continue, “Moreover, many of the workers losing manufacturing jobs belong to unions, and organized labor has become the most vociferous foe of new trade deals.” This begs the question, if free trade is so great for jobs and brings with it so many higher-paid export jobs, then why would organized labor be free trade’s “most vociferous foe”?

The Roberts pair offer one that we hear over and over. We should just give up, suck it up, and accept our sorry fate because, “The clock cannot be turned back. Lost manufacturing jobs will not return.”

Speaking of “jobs that aren’t coming back,” Ben Casselman, Chief Economics Writer at FiveThirtyEight, writes that “Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back.” Casselman explains that we should just give up, suck it up, and accept our sorry fate. “A plea to presidential candidates: Stop talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back from China. In fact, talk a lot less about manufacturing, period.”

He writes that we don’t need manufacturing anyway, because service sector jobs something.

It’s understandable that voters are angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And as Eduardo Porter wrote this week, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers. But rather than play to that anger, candidates ought to be talking about ways to ensure that the service sector can fill manufacturing’s former role as a provider of dependable, decent-paying jobs.

Casselman explains that our economy is already replacing well-paid manufacturing jobs with low-paying service sector jobs. “In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”

Cassleman says candidates should start “talking about” making a service-based economy “work for workers.” With talk like that, no wonder voters are fed up with America’s corporate-favoring trade policies that sending our jobs, wages and ability to make things – including a decent living – out of the country.

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on March 13, 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.

Democracy in Action, from the Coffeehouse to the Statehouse

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Watching another politician visit a local diner on the campaign trail, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of politicians—who, research shows, have become exponentially wealthier than the average American family—claiming to understand the daily challenges facing the middle class. Outside of the campaign trail, do our elected officials know what it’s like to have to clock in and out, or live paycheck to paycheck?

With the cost of campaigning growing dramatically with every election, it’s almost impossible for regular working people to run for office, leaving many of us to wonder if our elected representatives truly understand our struggles and represent us in the halls of power. How we can ever expect policymakers to share our concerns as their wealth further removes them from the day-to-day experiences of Americans who are trying to stay afloat in this economy? Aside from campaign finance reform, how can we fix the disconnect between elected officials and the people they represent?

One potential solution comes from the labor movement. Unions across the country have been encouraging their members—often workers from solidly middle-class backgrounds and professions—to run for elected office at the local, state, and even federal level.

As union members, workers can ascend as leaders by taking on active roles in negotiating collective bargaining agreements on behalf of their colleagues to help protect their fellow members’ interests on the job. These positions require both an enormous amount of transparency, accountability, and leadership—bargaining leads can’t just spin, smile, and handshake their way out of a bad deal. They need to look their colleagues straight in the eye and work next to them after a vote’s over.

Las Vegas is home to the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a union which is actively proving how to run a citizen farm team by engaging and recruiting future political stars through the ranks of its membership. Las Vegas may not seem like a typical training ground for politicos, but through leadership roles with their union, members are learning the skills necessary to serve in public office.

Maggie Carlton is a Local 226 member who waitressed at the Treasure Island casino coffee shop. She got hands-on leadership training while participating in negotiations for three major collective bargaining agreements, covering casinos across the strip.

Carlton was inspired by her ability to impact the lives of her colleagues and wanted to do more for them and others in the community. With the support of her union, she eventually ran for public office and won. Through leadership positions she held within her union, Carlton gained experience directly crafting workplace policy and advocating for workers’ interests. She brought these skills with her when she moved to the Nevada Statehouse, first as a state senator and then as an assemblyperson.

Once a working mom like Carlton is elected into office, she doesn’t forget where she came from. In the current era of political back-scratching, we could easily conclude that a union recruiting their members to run for office is just an attempt to pack legislatures with union sympathizers. But in fact, when American Rights at Work analyzed the 1994–2011 voting records of federal legislators who either had a working-class or middle-class occupation or who self-identified as a union member, we found that a politician’s union background significantly and positively influenced his or her likelihood of taking a policy position benefiting all working families, not just unions. Members with a union background had more “worker-friendly” voting records on issues ranging from protecting Social Security and unemployment to enacting stronger workplace safety laws workplace discrimination even when controlling for other factors, including party affiliation.

Politicians love to extol the virtues and the values of hard work—in their stump speeches, press releases, and in debates. But how many of them are going to bat legislatively for those who work hard for a living? Clearly, an individual’s life experiences and personal history shape how they vote. We need to elect more working moms, public teachers, nurses, truck drivers, and small business owners: people who bring the real perspective and values of working people to the table when developing policy that affects our daily lives.

This article was originally published at American Rights at Work on October 3, 2012.

About the Author: Sarita Gupta is the executive director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and American Rights at Work. Jobs with Justice works to build a strong, progressive labor movement working in concert with community, faith, and student organizations to build a broader global movement for economic and social justice. In over 45 communities in 25 states, JwJ local coalitions are organizing to address issues impacting working families. American Rights at Work is an independent labor policy and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Company Denies Creating Jobs in Indiana Because of Anti-Union Law

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Laura ClawsonIndiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has been bragging about a secret list. It’s the list of companies that he claims are thinking about moving to Indiana and creating jobs there because of the passage of the state’s new right to work free rider law, and it’s 28 companies long, three of them supposedly committed to moving to Indiana. That sounds like a genuine boost to a state’s economy. The catch is that the only company Daniels has been able to name as having brought jobs to Indiana because of the anti-union law says that’s not actually what happened:

MBC Group President Eric Holloway said Thursday that he always planned to expand his Brookville operations and that a state news release issued two weeks ago mistakenly quoted him as saying “right to work” legislation factored into his decision.

“We are not a union shop. The effect that this was going to have was not going to affect our decision one way or another,” said Holloway, whose company estimates that its planned $4.1 million expansion will create up to 101 new jobs.

When your evidence that a law is creating jobs is 28 companies you can’t name and one that says the jobs it’s creating have nothing to do with your law, that’s called grasping at straws. Also “making shit up.”

*Disclaimer: The opinions of the author are the opinions of the author alone and not those of Workplace Fairness.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on March 16, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Employee Rights Short Takes: GOP Private Club Sued For Race Discrimination, Latino Discrimination On The Rise And More

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

It’s a political week, so here are a few short takes – admittedly- with a political twist::

GOP Social Club Sued For Racial Discrimination

The National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, an exclusive club known to be the place where the DC Republican “backroom deals” get made, is being sued for raImage: Republicance discrimination by its former human resource manager. The plaintiff, Kim Crawford,  alleges that she was repeatedly passed over for raises while “less qualified, less deserving male and white counterparts were given” increases.

Crawford also claims she was fired in July after investigating a racial complaint from the club’s acting executive chef. Race discrimination in employment and retaliation are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more about it read here.

Being A Liberal And Hating Sarah Palin May Be Genetic

I must say this story caught my eye – particularly since we have three generations of Sarah Palin bashers in my immediate family. A new study in the Journal of Politics, as reported in Time,  says that there’s a biological explanation why some people favor big government, oppose the death penalty and can’t stand Sarah Palin – and it’s called the liberal gene.

The DRD4-7R gene affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine has already been linked to a personality type driven to seek out new experiences. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University hypothesized that this predisposition might affect political beliefs.

The researches suspect that the D4 novelty seekers would have more exposure to a wider variety of lifestyles, a wider circle of friends and more exposure to broader  views, attitudes and beliefs. Apparently, all of this does have an effect on D4 inidviduals’ political views and the new study bears out their hypothesis  —  those born with the D4 gene are more liberal. It’s all quite interesting. I wonder if we’re going to hear about a conservative gene too?

More Latinos Concerned About Discrimination

Nearly two thirds of Latinos in the United States think that discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem” according to a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center. There are 47 million Latinos in the US, which make up 15% of the population and constitute the nation’s largest minority group. According to the study:

Asked to state the most important factor leading to discrimination, a plurality of 36% now cite immigration status, up from a minority of 23% who said the same in 2007. Back then, a plurality of respondents-46%-identified language skills as the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics.

The Pew study was released days before the mid-term elections in which the Latino vote is expected to play an important role, particularly in the Florida gubernatorial race and Nevada Senate contest between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Tea Party Republican Sharon Angle. Anlge has been sharply criticized for ads run in recent weeks which portray Latinos as menacing interlopers. 17% of voters in Nevada are Latinos who are expected to vote in high numbers this Tuesday.

images: ktnv.images.worldnow rlv.zcache.com politicalmuse.com

This article was originally posted on Employee Rights Blog.

About the Author: Ellen Simon is recognized as one of the leading  employment and civil rights lawyers in the United States. She offers legal advice to individuals on employment rights, age/gender/race and disability discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment. With a unique grasp of the issues, Ellen’s a sought-after legal analyst who discusses high-profile civil cases, employment discrimination and woman’s issues. Her blog, Employee Rights Post has dedicated readers who turn to Ellen for her advice and opinion. For more information go to www.ellensimon.net.

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