Trading Our Jobs
By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News on May 11, 2011
Congress will soon be voting on whether to send good American jobs with good American benefits to countries with cheap labor and no benefits.
As soon as this month, so-called “free-trade agreements” with South Korea, Panama and Colombia will be sent to Capitol Hill. What politicians are calling “free trade” is actually freedom for CEOs to trade our jobs for more big salaries and bonuses.
You’d think politicians would learn something from our experience with trade deals, especially in our great state. No other state has been hammered harder by NAFTA than Michigan. We’ve seen with our own eyes the disappearance of auto plants that used to have 6,000 workers running three shifts. We’ve struggled with the devastation of our cities and the communities left without hope for their kids.
I’m concerned about the trade deal with South Korea because it’s likely to have an impact very similar to NAFTA. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, the two industries hurt most by NAFTA are computers and electronic parts and motor vehicles and automotive parts. Those are the same two industries that are being harmed already by South Korea. A trade deal would worsen our growing trade deficit with that country and cost 159,000 U.S. jobs in seven years, according to EPI.
How any member of Congress from Michigan could vote for this bill is beyond me. Of the 20 congressional districts that took the biggest hits from NAFTA, 10 are in Michigan (and we only have 15, soon to be 14). A South Korea trade deal would add insult to injury in the communities our members of Congress represent.
Take Detroit: The Dodge Main and Detroit Assembly plants don’t support any families anymore in the city’s two congressional districts, represented by John Conyers and Hansen Clarke.
The Buick City, Chevy in the Hole, Delphi/AC Delco and Fisher Body plants that once employed tens of thousands of people in Dale Kildee’s Flint district are all shut down.
Nobody’s making Grand Ams, Cadillacs, Malibus or Cavaliers anymore in Saginaw and Lansing, represented by Tim Walberg and Mike Rogers.
The Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti and the Dearborn Assembly plant were shut down long ago in John Dingell’s Dearborn district. The Warren Truck Assembly Plant employs far fewer workers in Sander Levin’s district than it did in its heyday. When GM closed the Pontiac East Assembly Plant in 2009, that was the end of Gary Peters’ district as a central production hub for the automaker.
Candice Miller’s Macomb County district was clobbered by 10 years of plant closings and job losses. And no district has lost more jobs to NAFTA than Thaddeus McCotter’s 11th District, once home to the Inland Fisher Guide and Livonia Engine plants.
Michigan was built by troops who came back from war and a government that took its obligation to them seriously. It was built by businesses that hired American workers and needed a well-trained American workforce. And it was built by the hard work of our parents and grandparents, and the strength in numbers that came from unions that represented them.
It’s time we started rebuilding Michigan. We’ve done it once, and we can do it again. But not by agreeing to a job-killing trade deal with South Korea.
To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.