[Meeting in Chicago on Friday, March 9, the UE General Executive
Board issued the following statement on President Trumps announcement
about steel and aluminum tariffs. ] [https://portside.org/] 

 WORKERS NEED AN INDUSTRIAL POLICY NOT TARIFFS  
[https://portside.org/2018-03-20/workers-need-industrial-policy-not-tariffs]


 

 UE General Executive Board 
 March 12, 2018
United Electrical Workers Union, UE
[https://www.ueunion.org/political-action/2018/ue-general-executive-board-workers-need-an-industrial-policy-not-tariffs]


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 _ Meeting in Chicago on Friday, March 9, the UE General Executive
Board issued the following statement on President Trump's announcement
about steel and aluminum tariffs. _ 

 , AP 

 

President Trump’s recent announcement that he intends to impose a
25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum is not a new or
effective strategy for reviving American manufacturing. George W. Bush
imposed tariffs on steel in 2002 and quietly removed them after only
18 months. Protectionist measures in a capitalist economy of global
“free” trade are not adequate tools for building a sustainable US
infrastructure and improving the lives of workers.

What American workers need is not partial half-measures, but a trade
and industrial policy that is based on international cooperation,
respect for workers’ rights, and environmental sustainability —
one that raises living standards for workers across industries and
across borders through investment in infrastructure, jobs and social
programs.

It is troubling that there are “progressive” voices and
organizations that are falling into the Trumpian trap of using trade
as a tool to divide the working class on all sides of our borders.
Instead of pursuing industrial policies that raise wages and working
conditions for workers across industries and across borders, these
tariffs are simply an effort to secure the best possible deal for one
sector of business. They will only have the effect of whipsawing U.S.
steel and aluminum workers against other U.S. manufacturing workers
whose industries are dependent on steel and aluminum imports, and
against steel and aluminum workers in other countries.

Corporate executives regularly hide behind notions of “market
forces” or “economic efficiency” as they make calculated
decisions to destroy workers’ living standards and rip industries
from US, Canadian and Mexican communities in their search for cheaper
wages and worse environmental standards. We have heard it thousands of
times in union contract negotiations. However, it is not just
“markets” or “economics.” Trade deals and tariffs have real
impacts on human beings and our ability to make a life for ourselves
and our families. To treat our relations with other nations,
especially those nations that are some of our closest allies, as a
business deal speaks volumes about our government’s view of its
relationship with other countries and their lack of concern for
workers.

Most troubling about the President’s executive order is his threat
to Canada and Mexico that their “exemption” is conditional on the
positions they take during the NAFTA negotiations. Canada has made
demands in the negotiations to improve labor rights and conditions in
both Mexico and the US, to level the playing field between our three
nations and blunt the ability of corporations and their allies to
exploit workers and communities. We are concerned that the basis of
the President’s threats is to enforce the continued use of NAFTA as
a tool for corporate greed and exploitation.

As has been widely reported in the press, the Trump administration
imposed these tariffs under World Trade Organization rules by claiming
they are for “national security” purposes. This is a false claim.
In fact, Secretary of Defense James Mattis challenged that premise in
a “Memorandum for Secretary of Commerce” by stating, “As noted
in both Section 232 reports, however, the US military requirements for
steel and aluminum each only represent about three percent of U.S.
production. Therefore, DoD does not believe that the finding in the
reports impact the ability of DoD programs to acquire the steel or
aluminum necessary to meet national defense requirements.” (Section
232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives executive branch the
ability to conduct investigations to “determine the effects on the
national security of imports”.)

As Senator Sanders consistently repeated during his presidential
campaign, the greatest threat to our national security is global
climate change. Investing in infrastructure and transitioning from
fossil fuels to renewable energy would not only improve our national
security but could create millions of sustainable and good-paying
union jobs. We could transform our nation into one where our air and
water are clean, our cities livable, our education system top-notch,
and workers and residents have the same affordable access to
healthcare, housing, and food regardless of income.

We are not opposed to tariffs or trade agreements in all
circumstances. Countries use them all the time to protect key segments
of their economy and ensure employment in those sectors. However, we
firmly oppose using them as a cudgel to extract concessions from
trading partners and allies, and to bolster corporate profits at the
expense of workers’ living standards and the health and safety of
our communities.

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