Labor & Globalization
Graphic by Mike Alewitz
Labor Solidarity Has No Borders
The issue that has become known as “globalization,” which has played out in this country around clashes over the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and most recently trade status for China, is not just about trade. Corporations are not only moving goods across borders—they are also moving capital, factories, jobs. The fight is not just about tariffs but all kinds of laws protecting labor, defending the environment. Globalization is also threatening many useful public services with private corporations demanding the right to obtain Social Security, schools, airports, prisons, transit systems—and even our drinking water.
In the fight around NAFTA we were told by many “friends of labor” free trade was a win-win situation. Economic growth would mean increased prosperity for American, Canadian, and Mexican workers alike. The result has been just the opposite. While a new, thin layer of rich has developed in all three countries around NAFTA workers and farmers in all three have taken a beating.
The impact on U.S. workers has been far greater than the several hundred thousand jobs that have been directly lost to “free trade.” The mere threat by bosses to relocate jobs has had a chilling effect on labor relations. Workers displaced by job movement have taken a cut in wages and benefits while most other workers, wary of relocation threats, have settled for stagnant wages—even in the midst of what is supposed to be unprecedented prosperity.
It is important for U.S. workers to sort out who are our allies and who are our adversaries in the globalization struggle. Our enemy is not the working people of China, or Mexico, or any place else. We're in a fight with the multinational corporations—the biggest of which are based in our country—and the governments and politicians who do their bidding.
We must be wary of some who try to latch on to the fight against globalization to promote a more sinister agenda. Pat Buchanan doesn't give a rodent's behind about the plight of working people here or anywhere else. He has been a lifelong friend of the most reactionary rich and a die-hard opponent of our unions. He, and others of his ilk, are trying to exploit the sentiment against globalization with thinly veiled appeals to bigotry. We should soundly reject those appeals in no uncertain terms.
The bottom line is that if globalization prevails the living standards of working people everywhere will be driven down to the lowest level anywhere. The only effective defense is to promote workers standards everywhere through organization and solidarity. Our allies are the workers of the world. We help ourselves when we assist them.
We also have important allies in the environmental movement who correctly view globalization as a monster threat to our planet's environment.
The U.S. labor movement has made great progress in understanding globalization and taking initiatives to fight it. The struggle will continue.
Labor Party Fair Trade Campaign
Citizen's Global Trade Watch
Multinational Monitor On-Line
UE International Information and Action Site
Cross Border Network for Justice and Solidarity
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