Congress and the President Need to Listen to Workers on Trade

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that the United States has a ginormous, humongous trade deficit with China. The goods trade deficit with China reached $375 billion in 2017. This deficit has cost 3.4 million U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2015.  About 2.6 million of those lost jobs were in manufacturing, including more than 1.2 million in computer and electronic manufacturing. You probably also know that the loss of all these jobs pulls down wages, and that bad trade policies lower an average U.S. worker’s pay by $2,000 every year.

The labor movement has been working to fix U.S. trade policy for more than 20 years. After years of having our trade recommendations ignored by both Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses, President Donald Trump has started to take some of our advice. He announced tariffs on China to deter it from stealing patents and copyrights and pressuring companies to transfer technology and jobs from the United States (many companies are ready to outsource anyway—working people don’t need extra threats from China!). The real test will come in what happens in negotiations with China and with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

We have to hold both Trump and members of Congress in both parties accountable and make sure they actually make real change in the trade rules that will help working people.

Labor has been fighting for stronger trade enforcement for years. So we think these tariffs are a good start, if used strategically. But alone, they aren’t enough to reform and undo decades of bad trade rules. The president can’t fix the trade deficit, create jobs and raise wages if he ignores the rest of our advice.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has explained

In isolation, this enforcement effort won’t be enough to fulfill the president’s promise to boost manufacturing, stop outsourcing or raise wages. These actions must be combined with policies that protect workers’ rights and our safety on the job, investments in our communities and working people, smart rules to prevent big banks from crashing our economy again, and renegotiated trade deals—starting with NAFTA—that end special privileges for global companies, protect worker freedoms, and promote a fair and sustainable economy for all of us.

In addition, countries need to work together to rewrite trade rules. But Trump’s trade policies are so far a solo effort. His unilateral approach has led to backlash instead of cooperation from U.S. allies.

We’ve got more advice on how to make trade work. We’ve put forth 17 key recommendations for a better NAFTA and suggested eight ways to make trade enforcement more effective. We’ve supported bills that would better protect our national security from predatory foreign investors and recommended that Congress oppose dumb ideas like making it harder for a president to enforce trade laws.

The AFL-CIO has a positive vision of international trade rules that lift up hardworking families here and across borders. When the United States and neighboring economies grow together, we create more exports and jobs. On the other hand, ignoring the violence, poverty and labor rights abuses in neighbors like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras is a recipe for more inequality and less union power both there and here.

It all boils down to this: Trade policy is not a question of "free trade" versus "protectionism." Instead, trade rules must promote good family-wage jobs, sustainable growth, vibrant economies, smart natural resource conservation and human rights and dignity globally. We believe these principles will lead to better trade rules that support more jobs and higher wages. Now we just have to convince our elected representatives to take more of our advice.

To help us, text TRADE to 235246.


Reposted from AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work