In 2003, a number of unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO established the Industrial Union Council (IUC), a grass roots labor organization that seeks to publicize the crisis that has beset America’s manufacturing sector. At the time, the U.S. economy had bled more than 2 million manufacturing jobs in just two years. Since then, another million have been exported overseas. According to the IUC, the main reason for this has been flawed trade policies and unfair trade practices that have put America’s manufacturers and their employees at a competitive disadvantage.
Industrial workers aren’t the only American workers being harmed by the international economy. Increasingly, workers in the service sector and high-tech industries are seeing their jobs outsourced. According to some recent estimates, as many as 10 million middle-class U.S. jobs will be exported overseas over the next decade.
For decades, U.S. policymakers have failed to consider the needs of American workers and industries when developing and implementing trade policy. At a minimum, U.S. trade negotiators need to ensure that meaningful health, labor and environmental standards are incorporated into any new trade agreement. That was not done with the North American Free Trade Agreement, nor was it done with the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The result has been the loss of millions of U.S. jobs.
The IUC also believes that undervalued foreign currencies have contributed to diminishing U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. U.S. tax policies even go so far as to provide incentives to American firms to move factories and jobs offshore. Moreover, there are a host of domestic initiatives that the federal government could adopt that would promote U.S. job creation and competitiveness:
- Invest in America’s infrastructure. U.S. policymakers should target public investment to rebuild and modernize the nation’s public infrastructure. Such a policy will create more domestic jobs and make the U.S. more competitive.
- Adopt “Buy American” statutes. Measures should be adopted to promote a strong industrial base for defense and homeland security. Organized labor strongly supports adoption of new “Buy American” statutes and the strengthening of existing ones.
- Reform the health care system. Rising health care costs are making it difficult for many U.S. companies to compete with foreign competitors.