Trumka: Obama ‘Forcefully Advocated for Working Families’ in State of Union

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address,” last night. He also said:

The  president’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time.

Read the rest of the statement below:

So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The president has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.

Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.

Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the president thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Want to Create 5.8 Million New Jobs? Here’s How

If the United States acted forcefully to end currency manipulation by China and other nations—and there is legislation to provide the government the tools to do so—it could create as many as 5.8 million jobs (40% in manufacturing) and reduce the nation’s trade deficit by as much as 72.5%, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit, and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field. [Currency manipulation] is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.

The EPI report finds that:

  • Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $200 billion in three years under a “low-impact” scenario and $500 billion under a “high-impact scenario.” This would increase annual U.S. GDP by between $288 billion and $720 billion (between 2.0% and 4.9%).
  • The reduction of U.S. trade deficits and expansion of U.S. GDP would create 2.3 million to 5.8 million jobs, reducing the U.S. jobs deficit by between 28.8% and 72.5%.
  • About 40% of the jobs gained would be in manufacturing, which would gain between 891,500 and 2,337,300 jobs. Agriculture also would gain 246,800 to 486,100 jobs, heavily affecting some rural areas.

Read the full EPI report here.

Bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1267 and S. 1114) would crack down on currency exchange rate manipulation and hold countries that manipulate their currencies accountable. Trumka says:

We call on Congress to fight on the side of American workers and domestic manufacturers and farmers to put an end to currency manipulation now.

While China is the largest currency manipulator, other nations do so, too. Japan, which is one the 12 TPP nations, (China is not involved) has been accused of weakening the value of the yen to benefit its auto industry.

Currently Japan exports some 130 cars to the United States for every car that U.S. automakers export to Japan. One of the major reason for that imbalance is currency manipulation says the UAW.

As a consequence of Japanese government currency intervention, in a market such as the United States, Japanese imports have seen several thousand dollars in effective subsidies while, at the same time, exports from the United States to Japan have seen several thousand dollars in added costs….The impact of these policies undermines American auto exports and American jobs and the investment they support.

Yesterday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), both sponsors of S. 1114, said that without currency manipulation rules as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement and other pending trade agreements, Congress is unlikely to approve the trade bills. Says Brown:

The trade agenda is not moving until currency is part of it.

The Obama administration’s is pushing to have the TPP agreement considered under Fast Track rules in Congress.

Under the Fast Track process, Congress can only vote yes or no on the full agreement. It cannot amend or improve the bill.

Sign the petition to Congress to stop bad Fast Track trade deals over the next four years, including the TPP.

Also, if you haven’t signed a letter for a better TPP, do it here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Stop in the Name of Love—of Country

Guest post by Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers. This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The conduct of the New York State Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in rehabilitating the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge can only be described as anti-American.

The MTA plans to send $235.7 million of Americans’ hard-earned toll dollars to China for foreign steel and foreign fabrication to renovate a bridge over the Hudson River that Americans built with American steel and American fabrication 50 years ago.

The MTA must stop. It must stop converting this American landmark — the longest suspension bridge in North America – into a foreign-made object. The MTA must stop. It must stop eroding American manufacturing, spurning American workers and wounding the American economy. The MTA must immediately stop stimulating the Chinese economy, employing Chinese workers with American toll dollars, transferring technological skills overseas and heightening Chinese power over America by enlarging the trade deficit. The MTA must stop, now, and buy American.

It’s the MTA’s contention that it can dodge buy American requirements because it is repairing the bridge with toll dollars, not tax dollars. The MTA used this contrivance to buy 15,000 tons of steel plate from state-owned and subsidized Anshan Iron & Steel Group of China and fabrication work from the China Railway Shanhaiguan Bridge Group.

Responding to criticism that MTA, a government agency, shirked buy American requirements, the authority’s executive director Thomas F. Prendergast said American corporations and workers weren’t capable of doing the work. America is not number one, Prendergast said. American manufacturers and American workers are just not as competent as the Chinese, according to the MTA.

This is exactly what Caltrans contended when it purchased Chinese steel and Chinese manufacturing for the Bay Bridge construction in California – after refusing federal aid so it could duck buy American provisions. Americansjust couldn’t do the work, Caltrans contended. And yet, American firms that bid on the project said they could. Caltrans ended up sending dozens of experts to China to babysit its contractors there; inspectors repeatedlydiscovered defects in welds, and the steel arrived from China 15 months late.

Caltrans said the bid from the consortium of American firms was too high, and the proposal would have delayed the project. But with hundreds of millions in cost overruns and a year’s delay attributable to the foreign purchases,the difference between the two bids at this point is negligible.

But it’s too late now. Caltrans denied American corporations the contracts, American workers the jobs, the American economy the boost. Caltrans contributed to the bleeding of American manufacturing jobs, 6,000 of which were lost just last month. MTA plans to join Caltrans in thwarting the Obama administration’s effort to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs.

With precious little effort, the United Steelworkers found two American bridge fabricators that said they could meet MTA’s requirements for specialized orthotropic steel decking for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Both are located in eastern Pennsylvania within 100 miles of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge site.

One was cleared by a bonding company, lined up financing and prepared to meet the MTA’s construction schedule.Also in eastern Pennsylvania, Lehigh University’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems Center tested full-scale prototypes of the orthotropic steel panels for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Both American bridge fabricators were prepared to use American-made steel, which would employ Americans in good, family-supporting jobs in mills that are required to control emissions and that wouldn’t have contributed to pollution by hauling steel halfway around the world.

MTA ignored all that and went to China for the steel and fabrication. It ignored Americans’ strong desire for government agencies to buy American, with 90 percent of Republicans and Democrats supporting buy American for public works projects. MTA ignored untold hidden costs of buying foreign — including pollution, quality concerns and delays.

And while claiming American companies and American workers are not up to snuff, MTA overlooked the fact that Ansteel of the Anshan Iron & Steel Group has never before produced steel plate of the type required for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge project. And the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge linking Staten Island and Brooklyn would beonly the second in the United States for China Railway Shanhaiguan Bridge Group. In fact, Anshan officials toldthe Wall Street Journal that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge project would be a test to determine whether its steel bridges “can go out into the world.”

The MTA decided to go to China even though eight bridges collapsed in China in little over a year, including one of the longest in Northern China, the Yangmingtan Bridge in Harbin last August. That $300 million span was only nine months old.

The MTA has tried to reassure protesters, including Republican and Democrat New York state lawmakers, that there is no risk. Prendergast told them all not to worry, no problem. “The safety of the public is always our paramount concern,” Prendergast contends – exactly what Caltrans said.

MTA officials and construction management staff went to China to make sure everything is ok, Prendergast says. Steel was tested with “good results.” Not great results. But, you know, good ones. Further tests will be done in the United States, Prendergast says. He pledges that MTA will maintain at the Chinese plant “a full time quality assurance presence,” whatever that means.

The upshot is that MTA and its construction manager will pay to send experts and staff to China to try to ensure good quality work, the same way Caltrans did. That’s a costly proposition. In addition, it means that these American professionals will transfer their technical knowledge and skill and expertise to a Chinese company. China won’t have to steal it. MTA plans to give it away.

These same MTA experts and consultants could have been sent less than 100 miles to one of two Pennsylvania firms to oversee quality control and collaborate with American manufacturers.

Any technical skill transfer then would have stayed within the United States, increasing American companies’ ability to complete such infrastructure projects in the future.

The MTA needs to stop this project right now. Think it over, Prendergast.

You can take action on this issue by visiting the New York State AFL-CIO Facebook page and sharing one of their graphics to voice your opposition to this project.

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