From the Director

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.

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