Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Buy America Will Create U.S. Jobs. We Need Lots of Jobs

The Buy America provision in the economic recovery package Congress now is finalizing has some rich and powerful voices against it.

AT&T, Dow Chemical, Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association sent a letter last week to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying the provision “will harm American workers and companies across the entire U.S. economy, undermine U.S. global engagement, and result in mirror-image trade restrictions abroad that would put at risk huge amounts of American exports.”

Wrong. Such cries of protectionism are red herrings for the corporate search for the lowest-wage labor possible—at the expense of America’s workers and the U.S. economy.

United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard sums up Buy America this way:

This isn’t about a trade war. It’s about making sure we’re not putting our jobs out to bid for China.

Buy America would help ensure that our tax dollars funding the economic recovery package are spent on products that are made in America—to the maximum extent possible. When we buy products made in the United States, that creates jobs. And with 3.6 million jobs lost in this country since the recession started in December 2007, job creation is fundamental.

But if the big corporations can’t understand how that works, they can take a lesson from the president. The inauguration of President Obama was not just American-made, but union-made from start to finish. Here are just a few examples from the AFL-CIO Union Label & Service Trades Department about the inauguration:

  • Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) employed by the all-union Hargrove Co., along with electricians, carpen­ters, Teamsters and assorted skilled building trades workers worked for weeks crafting parade floats, and designing and executing d├ęcor for 10 official inaugural balls, a prayer breakfast, dozens of formal dinners and 30 other “unofficial” inaugural events.
  • All official inauguration printed materials—programs, schedules, tickets—carried a union “bug,” indicating members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Teamsters Graphic Communications Conference or both produced them.
  • Except for the military bands, musi­cians performing on the official inaugural stand were members of the American Federation of Musicians. Performers entertaining at the various balls were union members as well, as were the sound and lighting engineers and backstage personnel.
  • Hundreds of thousands of spectators who opted for public transportation to the formal inauguration ceremony were served by members of the Amalgam­ated Transit Union who operate the city’s Metrorail and Metrobus systems.

So rather than yelling “trade wars,” Big Business should repeat the following: “Investing in America makes the nation stronger. Investing in America makes the nation stronger…”

--by Tula Connell, AFL-CIO NOW BLOG, Feb 9, 2009

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