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Opinion News
December 15,2016

False hope

Leo W Girard

The members of USW Local 1999 had thought when President-elect Trump said 1,100 that only a small number of blue-collar jobs would be lost. In the end, though, it turned out nearly 600 workers would be out in the cold, almost half of the union members at the Carrier furnace plant in Indianapolis.

Everyone was thankful that 730 jobs had been rescued, but the 1,100 figure had created false hope. When it was dashed, workers were devastated. It was worse than if the President-elect had given them no hope at all.

This is important because the President-elect has made many promises to working people across this country. He said, for example, that he’d bring back manufacturing jobs from China, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere. He said he’d impose on companies like Carrier that ship factories and jobs out of the country a 35 percent tariff on the manufactured goods when they’re imported into the United States for sale. He promised tax incentives for manufacturers to build or expand factories in the United States. He pledged to create 25 million jobs. These are hope-builders for workers. They are pledges that must be kept.

The President-elect’s pledges are particularly important to members of the USW. That’s because the USW is the largest manufacturing union in North America. It represents workers who forge steel and aluminum, build tires, mold glass, refine oil, make paper and cardboard, mine taconite and copper, and perform dozens of other highly skilled factory jobs crucial to the U.S. economy, like construct Carrier furnaces and grind and machine Rexnord ball bearings. Rexnord’s a plant 1.5 miles from Carrier that announced in October that it, too, intended to move to Mexico.

The USW international has filed or participated in more than 50 trade cases in just the past decade. Almost all of these were done in partnership and cooperation with the employer companies. And most resulted in wins. In a couple of instances, the USW had to file by itself, with no help from the companies, whose positions were compromised because they had built plants in China. These cases are ridiculously expensive. But the union had to do it. It must pursue every avenue it can to protect members’ jobs against trade violators.

To sustain economic growth and employment, China continues to ramp up steel and aluminum production, even though the resulting excess capacity is roiling the entire world market. China is producing more steel and aluminum than the entire world needs, causing plummeting prices, bankruptcies, plant closures and massive layoffs from the United States, Canada and Mexico to India and the UK.

There are more than 16,000 steelworkers out of work in the United States right now. Since 2000, 18 aluminum smelters have closed in the United States, permanently destroying thousands of good, family-supporting jobs, and leaving the country with only five operating.

The USW hopes the President-elect can persuade Rexnord to keep those 300 good jobs in Indianapolis. If not, the USW believes President-elect Trump should fulfill his pledge to impose a 35 percent tariff on any ball bearings Rexnord would plan to import into the United States from a new Mexican plant where workers would receive a total of $6 an hour in wages and benefits.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘False Hope Hurts More: Trump’s Promises to the
Working Class’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org


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