What Do Fair Trade, Health Insurance, Right To
Organize Have In Common?
As many of our members already know, the Central American Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in August. The UAW lobbied hard
against passage of this legislation, based on the horrific results we
witnessed with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
As our members well know, manufacturing in the United States has been
decimated by job losses due to corporations running away to low wage countries
which provide no protection for workers in the form of health and safety,
retirement or health care.
CAFTA passed because of pork barrel politics. Members of the House of
Representatives were pressured by the Bush administration into approving
it. They knew their vote on CAFTA would decide whether their home districts
would be included or excluded from the highway appropriations bill.
CAFTA will be a disservice to manufacturing in the United States once
again by opening up opportunities for production in these poor Central
American countries whose workers will not be able to afford to purchase
the products they will build and will not be able to afford the products
manufactured here. That’s what Bush’s “free” trade
policy is all about.
I applaud the UAW members who lobbied against CAFTA and urge all of you
to stay mindful of attempts by Congress to lower trade barriers in Thailand
and China next. Another concern in America’s ability to compete
in the worldwide marketplace is health care costs. American employers
are the only companies among all industrialized democracies that continue
to carry the sole obligation of providing health insurance for their employees.
Employer-mandated health care not only fails to cover all Americans, that
system puts American manufacturers at a disadvantage with manufacturers
from countries where a more efficient, government-run national health
insurance system foots the bill. There are many working Americans whose
employment does not offer health insurance. If they are covered, their
co-pays or mandatory contributions financially prohibit them from providing
health insurance for themselves and their families.
Even being a union member doesn’t guarantee you will be provided
with medical insurance. Even making the choice to become union member
has been threatened by anti-union outfits such as the National Right to
Work Legal Defense Foundation. Meanwhile the proposed Kennedy-Miller Employee
Free Choice Act would restore workers’ freedom to form unions. Under
this act, workers would be freed from the oppression of anti-union corporations
and the fear and intimidation that comes with employees trying to exercise
their democratic rights in the workplace.
This legislation would protect union card-check validation and provide
for mediation and arbitration of first contract disputes. Kennedy-Miller
would also authorize stronger penalties for employers who violate the
rights of workers seeking to form unions and negotiate first contracts.
I ask you, as concerned citizens and union members, to contact your representatives
and senators. Urge them to support American workers by supporting fair
trade, national health insurance and the right to organize. As unionized
workers, we have the responsibility to protect the dignity of all working
people in the preservation of our remaining jobs and standard of living.
In fact, it is in our self-interest to do so.
So what do fair trade, health insurance and the right to organize have
in common? Workers’ rights, that’s what. All workers.