10/19/03

What workers think

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The US government has become the most prolific user of doublespeak, especially when it comes to legislation that affects workers. “Right to work” = right to scab; “paycheck protection” = cut unions out of politics; “free trade” = give jobs to other countries.
–R.S. “Bo” Marlow, pres., UAW Local 882 (Local 882
*News/Solidarity*, Sept. 03)

It’s been several years since the vaunted Clinton Administration and Wall Street brought you NAFTA. To quote a former New York Mayor, the question is: “How’s it goin’?”

If you’re like most Americans, times are not so hot. Over 3 million Americans are out-of-work (and that just counts those still looking for
work, and still getting unemployment benefits!).

Thanks to NAFTA, millions of American jobs, especially those in manufacturing, are gone; and gone forever. That cranky, big-eared, funny talking little guy who challenged both Bush and Clinton during the 1996 presidential race – remember Ross Perot? – warned of a “giant sucking sound” if NAFTA got passed. It was, he declared, the sound of millions of jobs leaving these shores to Mexico and other low-wage havens. That funny little guy was right.

Well, if you liked NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), you’ll love the FTAA, and the upcoming CAFTA. Billed as the Free Trade Area of the Americas and Central American Free Trade Agreement (set for 2004), these acts promise to do what NAFTA has done on an ever grander scale.

The logic behind all of these provisions is simple: business can move its manufacturing costs to the places where labor is inexorably cheapest;
and labor can hang.

As Clinton once told us: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ What he meant, of course, is the economic health of corporations, not individuals.

In the decade since NAFTA, the nation’s service economy employs the largest percentage of workers, with unions like SEIU (Service Employees
Industrial Union) having the biggest memberships. Many are paid frightfully low wages, but it would be even worse were it not for bargaining units like SEIU. For millions of young, working class kids, service jobs are the only viable ones available, if at all. And service jobs virtually always provide lower wages than manufacturing jobs.

As the presidential campaigns roll around again, listen to what the guys and gals, of either of the major corporate parties have to say about NAFTA, FTAA, or CAFTA. Chances are, most of them won’t have squat to say, or will even support it. That’s because, for most politicians, greasing the palms of corporations is the easiest way to raise campaign coffers, and most would rather shoot off a toe than piss off a potential corporate donor.

Press them on it! Other than Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich, most will not broach this delicate area (Kucinich opposes it).

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is working against the FTAA and related so-called ‘fast track’ deals. If you have internet access, check with UAWire at: www.uaw.org for news alerts and updates.

Coming up soon, on Nov. 17 to the 21st, labor and social justice groups are organizing for a planned meeting in Miami where trade ministers throughout the western hemisphere will be trying to push FTAA forward.
If you’re interested and have internet access, contact: www.stopftaa.org
for information.

That’s something, but it really isn’t enough. When you see those Clinton clones get up and talk about how much they just ‘love’ labor, don’t let them get an inch further without asking them for their position on NAFTA, FTAA, and CAFTA.

If you fail to do so, you’ll be looking back, ten years from now, and
you won’t be able to recognize anything, but more social wreckage.

(Mr. Jamal is a member of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the
UAW.)

 

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
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- Mumia Abu-Jamal

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