Midterm Results Are In, But 3 Big Manufacturing Questions Remain

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher and Writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

President Donald Trump, the professed master of “the art of the deal,” certainly has some bargaining ahead of him when the newly-elected Congress convenes in January. However, with broad bipartisan support from voters, manufacturing promises to be the perfect opportunity for a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate to find common ground and help the American worker.

We’ve outlined three major questions for the 116th Congress to consider as it tackles manufacturing issues.

1. What’s next for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)?

The greatest question when it comes to passage of the USMCA is whether the U.S. will replace tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel with quotas – though Canadian President Justin Trudeau has affirmed that Canada’s agreement to the deal is not dependent on this. When the deal comes to Congress, labor standards implementation questions could delay passage.  

As for other trade fronts, U.S. strategy in addressing China trade cheating looks likely to stay on the course Trump set – an approach that the public is willing to see through as well.   

2. Will infrastructure get its due attention and action?

Infrastructure may finally -- FINALLY! -- come to the forefront of Congressional objectives.

Trump has long promised an infrastructure plan, but efforts to solidify these promises and bring them to fruition have left much to be desired. With House Democrats putting infrastructure investment at the top of their to-do lists, hope is mounting that the combined effort of the White House and Congress can build momentum into action.

Though Democrats’ plans for funding are likely to differ from what Trump envisions, long overdue infrastructure investment would be a win for the president, Congress, and, most importantly, the economy and workers. (Every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investment would create over 21,000 jobs, according to a 2014 report.)

3. Will job training win new investment?

Around the country, as low unemployment rates shrink the job applicant pool, job training has become an ever-more critical issue for manufacturers.

The White House released a plan to advance American leadership in advanced manufacturing in October, outlining increased national investment in apprenticeship programs. Could Congress open the way for more funding?  

Newly-elected Democrats in the House, like Haley Stevens of Michigan, who has a history in manufacturing workforce development, could lead the way.  

Workers are depending on Congress and the president to collaborate and support American manufacturing. As polling shows, Americans want manufacturing to be a national priority. It's up to Congress and the president to make it happen.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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