Need the Labor Party
at work: A GE worker protests after the company
announced it was moving its Bloomington, IN,
refrigerator factory to Mexico, laying off 1,400.
Photo ©2000, Jeremy Hogan, Impact Visuals
by Tony Mazzocchi,
LP National Organizer
On May 24, 2000, the House of Representatives
— including 73 Democrats — turned its back on working
Americans and passed a bill granting China permanent
"normal" trade relations with the United States.
President Bill Clinton, the measure’s chief
backer (next to big business, which plowed "tens of
millions of dollars" into the bill according to the
Center for Responsive Politics), tried to convince Americans
that the move would be a great boon to U.S. workers.
Corporate America admitted the truth the very
next day in its own newspaper, the Wall Street Journal:
"This deal is about investments, not exports,"
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter economist Joseph Quinlan told the
Journal. "U.S. foreign investment is about to overtake
U.S. exports as the primary means by which U.S. companies
deliver goods to China." The Journal goes on to explain
that it’s really "a simple business fundamental:
Companies need to be closer to their customers. And China has
1.2 billion potential customers."
Another con job, another defeat for American
workers. To understand the potential consequences of the China
trade deal, we need only review our experience with the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — another classic con
job pulled off by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans led
by President Clinton.
CON JOB #1: NAFTA was supposed to "create
200,000 new jobs in this country by 1995 alone" — that’s
what President Clinton promised at the NAFTA signing ceremony.
General Electric, in testimony before Congress, claimed that
NAFTA would create 10,000 jobs for the company and its
FACT: An Economic Policy Institute study shows
that NAFTA has caused the loss of 394,835 U.S. jobs. And as
for General Electric, by 1998, the company had 3,566 certified
job losses due to NAFTA. Hardest hit by NAFTA were auto and
textile workers, and workers who make computers and electric
appliances. Those mostly good-paying jobs were exported and
replaced by low-wage jobs."Cashier" is now one of
the fastest growing occupations in the nation.
NAFTA was never about creating jobs in our
country. It was about insuring U.S. corporations access to
cheap labor in Mexico. As one of its chief backers, William
Orme, Jr. said, "As critics correctly insisted, NAFTA was
more an investment agreement than a trade agreement. It was
designed to convince investors that Mexico was a safe place to
CON JOB #2: Clinton and other NAFTA boosters
claimed that expanded trade would bring greater prosperity to
FACT: Mexican workers are now worse off. NAFTA
reinforced government policies in Mexico that reduced real
wages for workers by 25% and increased to 38% the share of the
Mexican population living on less than $2.80 a day. Per day!
Which brings us back to the China bill.
Con Job #3: White House National Security
Advisor Sandy Berger went so far as to pledge that thanks to
new trade relations with China, "We’re going to sell a
lot more American cars and auto parts in China, which means
more jobs in America."
FACT: According to the International Labor
Organization (1997),the average monthly wage for Chinese
manufacturing workers is $60. Does Sandy Berger really believe
that these Chinese workers are going to stumble over each
other to buy imported American cars? No, that’s not the
purpose of the push for the China trade bill. The real goal
is, as the Wall Street Journal says, giving multinational
corporations free license to invest in a country where wages
are extremely low. The U.S. market, already flooded with cheap
goods from China, will soon be awash.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that
the booming trade deficit with China will accelerate job
destruction in the United States over the next decade, with
losses in every state. EPI predicts a total of 872,000 jobs
will be lost. Chances are that you or someone you know will be
one of the unlucky winners in the job loss lottery.
The fact is, NAFTA and the China trade bill
are not about creating jobs in the United States, and they’re
not about improving the lives of Chinese or Mexican workers.
Under the new corporate trade regime, Chinese, Mexican, and
American workers will continue to see their rights to organize
suppressed. And American workers will continue to lose good
CON JOB #4: President Clinton and his
Democratic and Republican allies on trade claim to be on the
side of working Americans.
FACT: The American trade union movement is
taken for granted by most politicians. On the issues of utmost
importance to labor, they vote against our interests.
Can any trade unionist ignore the fact that we
lost 394,835 jobs since NAFTA’s passage and that we are
projected to lose 872,000 jobs under the new trade relations
The Labor Party doesn’t pretend that we will
have a dramatic effect on the body politic tomorrow morning.
But day by day, we are building a national party that has the
capacity to fight for our interests.
The con job about so-called free trade and the
real facts must be presented to workers who are not yet
members of the Labor Party. Recruiting them and their union to
the Labor Party is the only way we are going to build the
political might that is absolutely necessary to confront
global corporate domination.