Working People Say Neither the U.S. nor Canada Gets Trade Policy Right

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

Working people can’t afford any more trade policies written by and for corporations. But neither should we be pawns in a misguided power struggle that antagonizes allies or empowers corporations but fails to fix our economy.

A recent Global News/Ipsos poll revealed that more Americans support Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s actions on trade than President Donald Trump’s. In part, that may be because Trudeau seems more "likable." It may be because Americans have been treated to a steady stream of pundits who—like the global corporations who profit from unfair trade—oppose all forms of trade enforcement and who are purposely trying to make trade enforcement a dirty word. Wall Street has been working overtime to spook us with the specter of a "trade war," and the scare tactics have apparently been working.

The truth is that Trudeau, likable though he may be, is hurting Canadians by advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) trade deals, both of which are rigged to favor corporations over working families. Both deals are mostly about restricting the power of citizens to make decisions about how to run their own countries and rein in outrageous and irresponsible behavior of powerful corporations. The deals are only a little about actual trade.

Likewise, although Trump talks a good game on pro-working family trade policies, things like lumping Canada in with trade cheats like China, anti-worker federal employment policies and distinctly anti-family immigration policies put those words into doubt.

As we have said before, tariffs can be an important step in seeking to address trade cheating as well as trade practices (such as global overproduction of steel and aluminum) that may not violate specific international trade laws but do threaten our national security. That is why we support the Trump administration's announcement of the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum and Section 301 intellectual property tariffs.

As a result of the 232 tariffs, 3,500 steel and aluminum workers already have been called back to work in Texas, Illinois, Ohio and elsewhere. A new steel mill is being built in Florida.

To be clear, the tariff roll out has been mismanaged. The administration should have worked strategically with allies (such as Canada) instead of alienating them with tariffs that aren’t targeted to solving the problem.

Tariffs are only a tool. By themselves, they will not achieve the comprehensive trade reform working families need. They won’t ensure we have the freedom to join unions and negotiate for better wages. They won’t eliminate private “corporate courts” that give companies another reason to outsource jobs. They won’t reform bad tax laws that also promote outsourcing. And they certainly won’t fund the infrastructure, education and training we need to boost our economy.  

So, next time you think about tariffs, think about how they can protect jobs and curb predatory trade behavior, but also know that alone, tariffs are not enough.  

And the next time you think about politicians, think about how they can better protect working families, no matter what party or country they represent. Rather than feuding, both Trudeau and Trump should improve their trade policies by acting together to comprehensively promote the interests of working families. They should start with the AFL-CIO’s NAFTA recommendations.

Join the fight for better trade. Text TRADE to 235246.

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