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Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Posts About Trade/Make it in America

The following blog by Dave Johnson, Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future has been cross posted from the Campaign for America's Future. The original post is available online here. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the May goods and services trade deficit was an enormous, humongous $40.9 billion, up a bit from an enormous, humongous $40.7 billion in April.

Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is a measure of how many jobs, factories, companies and industries we are losing to our pro-Wall Street trade policies. A trade deficit drains our economy of wealth, jobs and future economic opportunity.

Here’s the AP via The New York Times, “U.S. Trade Deficit Widens in May as Exports Struggle“:

Trade slashed nearly 2 percentage points off growth during the first three months of the year. The big drag from trade combined with an unusually severe winter sent the economy into reverse, contracting at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the January-March period.

May imports were $230.5 billion, which was $0.3 billion less than April imports, and exports were $188.6 billion, down $1.5 billion from April.

The May goods deficit (factory jobs) was $61.5 billion.

The monthly U.S. goods deficit (factory jobs) with China increased in May to $30.6 billion, from $26.5 billion in April.

The U.S. goods deficit (factory jobs) with Japan was $6.4 billion in May.

The U.S. goods deficit (factory jobs) with South Korea was $2.4 billion in May.

Trade Deficit, Trade Policies Hurting Economy

When you close a factory in the U.S., move the jobs and production to a low-wage, low-democracy country, and bring the same goods back to the U.S. to sell in the same stores this “increases cross-border trade.” But since this trade is going in one direction, it also increases our trade deficit, which hurts our economy. Moving the jobs to places where the workers are exploited means that a few investors and executives can pocket the difference in what is paid in wages and environmental protection costs, while impoverishing the workers and communities on all sides of the trade borders.

And to top it off, the U.S. doesn’t even make these companies pay their taxes, so we literally get nothing back for the lost jobs and wages.

Our trade policies encourage companies to make things outside of the U.S. We have dropped tariffs on goods from countries that exploit workers, which encourages companies to move production to these countries so investors and executives can pocket the resulting wage differential. This makes our democracy into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

Our tax policies also encourage production to move out of the country. Companies that make profits outside the U.S. can dodge taxes by keeping the profits out of the U.S. This encourages companies to transfer production out of the U.S. and import in ways that make it appear the profit is made elsewhere.

The U.S. also has a strong dollar policy. The U.S. dollar is “strong” which means that things made in the U.S. cost more in international markets than things made in countries with “weak” currencies. A strong dollar is great for those who already have money and want to buy things like imports, but terrible for those who need to make money by selling things.

TPP Will Make It Worse

The upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a huge trade and corporate-rights agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other countries. One example of the trade effect of this agreement (which is mostly not a trade agreement) is the competition between athletic shoe companies Nike and New Balance. Nike makes shoes outside the U.S. in countries like Vietnam. New Balance is still trying to make some of its shoes in the U.S. If TPP drops a tariff on shoes from countries like Vietnam, Nike’s profits from making things outside the U.S. will increase, putting New Balance at a competitive disadvantage that could force it to stop making shoes in the U.S.

TPP and other upcoming corporate-rights agreements were recently “fast-tracked” by the Congress – even though TPP is still secret. By fast-tracking, Congress agrees in advance not to “meddle” with the corporate-negotiated agreements, meaning that anything called a trade agreement is essentially preapproved, no matter what is in them. Congress cannot amend the agreement, can’t filibuster it, has to abide by limits to the floor debate and must pass the agreements in a limited time, which keeps the public from getting involved.

Word is that TPP negotiations will be completed at the end of July. This could throw it to Congress right in the midst of the Christmas diversion season.

***

This has been reposted from the Campaign for America's Future.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America

The following blog by Leo W. Gerard, USW International President has been crossposted from USW's blog. The original post is available online here

In a close vote last week, a majority in the U.S. House chose to continue glomming onto the same tired old broken-down trade tactics that have closed American factories, cost American jobs and caused massive trade deficits.

The majority voted to sustain for the next six years trade policies that failed American workers for the past 20. The majority abdicated Congress’ constitutional responsibility to supervise international trade. Instead, they agreed to allow presidential administrations to once again negotiate trade deals in secret, then whip those corporate-appeasing, clandestine schemes through the Congressional approval process with absolutely no amendments, no changes, no improvements.

That’s the “Fast Track” process under which Congress has averted its eyes and approved one job-killing, deficit-ballooning trade deal after another, starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The result of that indolent, duty-shirking process since then has been 57,000 shutteredAmerican factories and 5 million lost jobs. Now, instead of conceding failure and forging a new path on trade, the House cleared the way to destroy more American manufacturing and family-supporting jobs.

These backward-facing lawmakers would benefit from stepping out of lobbyist-infested D.C.  and speaking to small town manufacturing workers who lost their livelihoods because Fast Tracked free trade schemes encouraged corporations to off-shore factories.

Maybe these pro-trade deficit politicians should listen to American steel and paper and tire workers describe what happened to them and their families and their communities when Fast Tracked trade schemes pitted them against child workers and forced laborers in foreign factories.

Maybe those politicians should hear formerly middle-class workers tell of unenforced provisions in Fast Tracked free trade schemes that enable foreign manufacturers that violate international trade regulations to steal market share from American businesses.

They should, for example, pay attention to Kori Sherwood. When she got a job two years ago as a millwright at U.S. Steel’s Minntac facility in the Minnesota Iron Range, it changed her life and that of her young daughter. But in March, U.S. Steel sent layoff notices to 680 of Minntac’s 1,500 workersciting an international glut of steel. Prices are at a 12-year low as mills in China continue to produce and ship massive amounts of steel and sell it at below market prices made possible by improper government subsidies and support.   

Under international trade law, countries can prop up industry with government subsidies when the products are sold internally. Beijing may give its steel industry no-interest loans and free electricity when the rebar or pipe or I-beams are sold for construction projects in China. But international trade law forbids such subsidies when the goods are sold internationally because government aid suppresses product prices in what is supposed to be a free market. Some countries, however, routinely flout the rules. Then American companies that don’t get no-interest government loans or free electricity or other subsidies can’t compete on price.

They shut down mills and lay off workers. Unions and manufacturers are forced to pay millions to petition for import duties on the subsidized foreign goods to level the playing field. To win such a case, industry must prove financial injury and workers must suffer layoffs and lost income.

Kori Sherwood got one of U.S. Steel’s layoff notices and lost her job at Minntac on May 26. China’s violation of international trade rules dashed Sherwood’s hopes and plans. “You finally think you get your life in order – buy a truck, buy a home, and it all falls apart,” she said.

My union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has repeatedly petitioned for trade law enforcement. In too many cases, however, decisions arrive so late that factories are permanently closed and workers seriously scathed.

Fast Track-loving lawmakers should talk to American workers who once made uncoated paper, the non-shiny stuff used in copy machines. The USW and four American paper companies filed a trade case in January because tons of improperly subsidized paper from Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia and Portugal was crushing American uncoated paper manufacturers.

Companies in these five countries kept their mills running and their workers employed by dumping illegally subsidized and underpriced paper into the U.S. market. These trade scofflaws bankrupted American paper mills and paper workers.

Since the dumping began in 2011, two U.S. companies that manufactured uncoated paper went out of business and a third stopped making the paper. Two firms closed two uncoated paper mills. And three others shut down four machines that produced the paper. The human cost of this: 2,500 family-supporting American jobs destroyed.

Communities suffer as well. In March 2014, International Paper permanently shuttered its 43-year-old uncoated paper mill in tiny Courtland, Ala. It was the area’s largest employer. More than 1,100 workers lost their jobs. Suddenly gone was an annual payroll of $86 million and $2.3 million in tax payments that the town, county and schools depended on every year.

Four of the uncoated paper mills applied for Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program that retrains workers if it can be proved that they were sacked because of international trade. All four qualified. That helped. But it did not restore good, family-supporting union manufacturing jobs.  

Import-adoring lawmakers should talk to tire builders from Tuscaloosa and Gadsden Ala., Findlay, Ohio, and Salem, Va., who have watched with endless anxiety over the past decade as American manufacturers closed plants and cut production because Chinese producers dumped subsidized passenger and light truck tires into the U.S. market.

After the USW petitioned for relief, the U.S. imposed import duties on Chinese tires beginning in 2009 and imports declined significantly. American producers regained market share and invested in American factories. They recalled laid off workers and even hired new ones.

But the second the duties expired, Chinese producers resumed dumping. American companies once again cut production, reduced workers’ hours and furloughed staff. The USW petitioned for trade relief again a year ago, and the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed preliminary duties. Since then, U.S. tire companies have ramped up production and increased workers’ shifts.

In testimony earlier this month before the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking permanent duties,David Hayes, president of the USW local union at Goodyear’s tire plant in Gadsden, talked about how the waves of dumped foreign tires have denied his fellow 1,500 workers job stability as layoffs followed each import surge. 

Since the preliminary duties, Goodyear has added new tire machines and hired 188 workers. But if the duties disappear, Hayes fears his plant could suffer the fate of the factory Goodyear closed in Union City in 2011. He told the trade commission that would devastate workers’ families and the state, to which the plant annually contributes $360 million in direct and indirect economic activity.

American workers and American manufacturers don’t oppose trade. They can compete on a level playing field with anyone in the world.  But the current trade regime, swept in without serious analysis on the back of Fast Track authority, has failed to provide a level playing field. America needs a new vision for trade. And to achieve that, lawmakers must slow track proposed trade deals.

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, United Steelworkers

The following blog by M.C. Tilton,  intern with the Sierra Club's media team, has been crossposted from The Compass blog. The original post is available online here

In a major victory for the American people, the U.S. House of Representatives stalled a harmful fast-track bill when it voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance, a woefully insufficient program that would have failed to protect workers displaced by trade. This move decimated hopes of completing a package of trade bills last week, and maybe forever, including a “fast-track” bill that would limit congressional authority and oversight over international trade deals like the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  But the fight is not over yet, so we must continue to fight to bury fast track once and for all.

Despite the fact that the TPP would impact every aspect of our lives, from the quality of the food we eat to the air we breathe and our ability to protect our climate, all negotiations have been brokered behind closed doors. Since the public is left in the dark and even Congress has limited access to the text, the Sierra Club and other leading environmental groups have opposed the fast-track bill that would strip Congress’s ability to meaningfully evaluate the costs of trade deals on our economy and environment.

“This is a major victory for everyone who thinks trade should be fair and responsible,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, after the weak Trade Adjustment Assistance bill flopped, and fast track stalled, on June 12.

Past trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, have taken away hundreds of thousands of American jobs and undermined safeguards on clean air and water. The TPP would be more of the same, but at a much larger scale since it ecompassess 12 nations.

Across the country, Sierra Club staff, members, and volunteers have urged their members to stand with communities and for our environment and oppose fast track for the TPP. That dedication is paying off, but the fight is not over.

“The era of free trade deals that harm workers and the environment is coming to a close,” Brune said. “Now, we must bury fast track and trade deals that threaten our air, water, and climate once and for all, and start fresh to build a new model of trade."

Representatives will continue to face intense pressure from corporate lobbyists who want to pull out all the stops to dictate America's trade policies with their own profits in mind. Clean air, clean water, and climate activists must persist in making it crystal clear to every member of Congress that the people they represent reject a fast-track bill that sacrifices our air and water for corporate profit.

The fight isn’t over yet. Contact your representative now to slam the door shut on fast track, once and for all.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, Sierra Club

The following blog by Kenneth Quinnell was originally posted in the AFL-CIO Now Blog. The original post is available online here

 

A bill promoting Fast Track authority for international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership failed to gather enough votes to advance today. On a largely party-line vote, the measure got 52 votes, eight short of the 60 needed to overcome a possible filibuster and bring the legislation to the floor.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the outcome was a temporary victory:

The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill is halted—for now. That’s good news for America’s working families, domestic producers and communities. We appreciate those senators who stood with working people today against a bill that would have led to undemocratic trade deals that lower wages and eliminate jobs. This vote sends a message loud and clear.

If Congress is serious about creating jobs, reviving U.S. manufacturing and raising wages, it needs to use its leverage to reshape the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It must remove special legal privileges for foreign investors, add enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation, strengthen rules of origin and redouble efforts to ensure workers everywhere—from Hannibal, Mo., to Hanoi, Vietnam—can organize and bargain collectively.

 

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America

This post was originally published by AFSCME

Union members and allies raised their voices in loud protest Thursday to oppose so-called Fast Track authority to pass a multination trade agreement that would ship good-paying American jobs to Asia, Central America and other low-wage regions, pushing down wages of U.S. workers.

“We’re going to stop Fast Track in its tracks and then we’re going to make sure that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and every other trade deal, is in the open, so our elected representatives can make them good trade deals,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, who officiated at the rally in the lobby of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.

“We say ‘no’ to Fast Track, we say ‘yes’ to fair trade,” declared Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). “We’re tired of the race to the bottom, we’re tired of an $11 trillion trade deficit in the United States. That deficit is Baltimore, it’s St. Louis, it’s my old neighborhood in Philadelphia, it’s every city in America.

Cohen and other labor leaders invoked May Day, International Workers’ Day, and they were joined by allies from immigrant rights groups who said the trade deal is bad for workers in other countries as well. Previous fast-tracked trade deals have pushed Central American farmers off their land, forcing them to migrate north to find jobs.

The union officials and members of Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have complained about the secretive nature of the Fast Track process, which allows trade negotiations to be conducted behind closed doors, preventing scrutiny by the public and meaningful input by Congress.

The bill authorizing the Fast Track process was approved recently by the Senate Finance Committee. Lawmakers in both houses are expected to vote on it in May, and both Shuler and Cohen noted that we are making progress in convincing legislators on both sides of the aisle to vote against Fast Track.

The 12 countries that comprise the agreement make up 40% of the world’s economy. They are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Send a message to stop the Fast Track train wreck! Also, click here to learn more about TPP, and check out this video by the AFL-CIO that explains the impact of TPP.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America

The following blog has been cross-posted from the USW's blog. The original post is available online here.  

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, United Steelworkers

The following blog has been cross-posted from CWA's Reistence Growing blog. The original post is available online here

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, Communications Workers of America

The following blog was originally posted on the Communications Workers of America website.

At the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference, union and green activists focused on how to beat "fast track" authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an IUE-CWA program to help manufacturing plants save energy and become more efficient, and how sustainable planning in the aviation industry can help improve communities.

AFA-CWA International President Veda Shook and Lourdes Maurice, Executive Director for the Federal Aviation Administration's Energy and Environment Office, moderated a discussion that addressed the airline industry and global greenhouse gases, climate change and ways to improve the aviation industry with a focus on smart planning.

IUE-CWA President Jim Clark and members highlighted the sector's partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund that works with management and workers to identify and implement energy saving opportunities at manufacturing facilities.

Also spotlighted was IUE-CWA's Lean/High Performance Manufacturing program, which looks at organizing production to lower costs, eliminate waste, improve quality and keep good jobs.

CWA Senior Director George Kohl, with the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council, outlined the critical fight to stop fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership. About 30 CWA and IUE-CWA activists participated.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, Communications Workers of America

The following blog—Roxanne Johnson, Research Analyst for the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation—was originally posted on the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Meeting Point blog.

Photo Info: Programs that helped rapidly retool American factories to build the most efficient vehicle technology – like at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky – enhanced the jobs benefits from fuel economy standards.  Photo: Sam VarnHagen/ Ford Motor Co.

The workshop session Delivering on Jobs Promises on day one of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference talked about how investments and policy have successfully created jobs in the past, as well as how job creation remains a challenge in the future.  A few ideas really stuck with me:

We can’t just assume we’ll build jobs

Moderator Zoe Lipman, Senior Policy Advisor to the BlueGreen Alliance, started off by citing the auto rescue as a huge success in revitalizing an industry facing bankruptcy. The rescue and the forward-looking fuel economy standards helped drive demand for new vehicles as well as allow us to realize environmental benefits from increased fuel efficiency. One thing she said that really stood out to me was that we can’t just assume that the jobs would be created automatically; in this case it was the manufacturing incentives included in the rescue that ensured the retooling of U.S. manufacturers and allowed for continued domestic production of these more fuel-efficient cars and light trucks.

We can compete in solar, and labor costs aren’t the problem

The next panelist Libby Wayman, Director of Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative at the Department of Energy (DOE), discussed all the work that the DOE is doing to support clean energy manufacturing and the related jobs benefits. She mentioned how individual policies and tools are less effective than the portfolio of policies and programs they are pulling together from across agencies. My favorite part was when she presented a chart that showed a competitiveness analysis that compared solar panel production in the U.S. compared to production in China. The chart highlighted discrepancies and showed where the costs could change in our favor—basically pointing towards where policies could make a significant difference. She also pointed out that contrary to popular belief, labor costs were not one of the major discrepancies. This kind of analysis is vital to our understanding of markets and production, which can inform the design of better policies as well as help companies make more strategic clean energy manufacturing decisions.

We should avoid bridges to nowhere, jobs-wise

Photo Info: Use of 100 percent foreign steel for the multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded San Francisco Bay Bridge repair meant fewer U.S. jobs and resulted in quality problems, delays, and cost overruns. Photo used under Creative Commons, by Flickr User avrene.

Brian Lombardozzi, Vice President for State Government Affairs at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, talked about trade and the importance of making sure that any incentives include some way to guarantee that investments are made in the U.S. so that all of the jobs benefits are realized here—not just jobs that result directly and on-site from investment like construction and installation. He discussed Buy America provisions and the fact that the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York were built with Chinese steel. He stressed the importance of indirect jobs—like manufacturing—which were not created by those two large infrastructure projects because they used Chinese steel products. He also discussed the environmental impact of outsourcing. For example, steel produced in China simply doesn’t meet the same strict environmental regulations we have here and it is also more carbon intensive. Another interesting snippet he told us was that a poll had found that the public perceives U.S. policies as the main impediment for creating American jobs.

We can do better in modeling and measuring jobs, too

Casey Bell, Senior Economic Analyst at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, talked about jobs modeling and measurement, which is one of my all-time favorite topics. While her presentation was focused on a new standardized method for energy efficiency programs to report on job creation, I was far more interested in her remarks about jobs modeling. One message I got from her talk was about modeling: if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. There have been complaints about jobs models not returning accurate results and green jobs not actually being realized, but I suspect that at least part of the problem is in understanding what the assumptions of the model mean. For example, Casey mentioned that the IMPLAN model is set up in a way that assumes a fully functional economy— i.e., no unemployment. Reality obviously looks different from the model, so my take home was that we just need to be careful when thinking about what the models can and can’t tell us. 

This panel was an interesting conversation about what it means when we talk about job creation, how we estimate or measure it, and how we can consider ways to maximize that job creation using investments or policy.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America

Let’s not fold on environmental protections and protecting working families as we negotiate a new trade deal. 

What good are better environmental protections and improved living standards for us all if, when pressed, they’re the first thing up for negotiation? That’s where we’re headed with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The idea that we’d negotiate such a trade agreement behind closed doors and under restrictive deadlines by fast-tracking negotiations doesn’t set the stage for success either. Americans deserve to hear everything they’d be getting, and giving up, by fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. 

This week, the Senate Finance Committee heard from the Communications Workers of America’s President Larry Cohen during a hearing on how Congress should negotiate this and other trade agreements. The concerns he expresses in his testimony are warranted. Besides the impact the TPP would have on environmental standards and basic quality of life for millions of Americans, a new trade deal shouldn’t add to the deficit, shouldn’t diminish consumer protections, should comply with all International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and more.

Cohen testified “We struggle and fight to hold on to the hard-won gains of years past even as the companies score record profits and CEOs’ pay is at astronomical highs. We need to recognize the role that trade agreements have played in creating this situation. 

See his full testimony below: 

We can’t afford to stand for these values within our own borders and fall back on our demands when pressured to do so. 

Speaking to the environmental implications, Cohen said, “It also does nothing to protect our environmental and climate policies from attack by foreign corporations or to put less stress on our scarce natural resources. More must be done to ensure that trade agreements don’t become a global race to the bottom on the environment.” 

The bad deal Americans would be getting by fast-tracking TPP authority doesn’t end there. Cohen voiced similar concerns about a race to the bottom with regard to fair labor standards, “It’s troubling to us that while previous discussions around Fast Track and negotiating principles have mentioned International Labor Organization (ILO) standards as a benchmark, the U.S. has endorsed few of those very standards itself.” 

There’s no denying that trade is an essential force in our economy. However, we must do more to be sure it’s not setting us back in the long term. Lawmakers would do well to show a little more determination in protecting transparency, consumer and environmental protections, fair labor standards and much more, so that our democracy doesn’t fall by the wayside today or any time soon.  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, Communications Workers of America
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