Linda Sanchez v. Bart Simpson
Public Citizen sues the U.S.

How to break a strike

Advocates of NAFTA argued that they pact would help keep consumer prices low and move the economy towards a more efficient allocation of resources. Just one serious drawback: such permanent tariff reductions remove political uncertainty from firms' cost-benefit calculation. Put differently, the price attached to risk was reduced. And manipulating risk levels is one of the few weapons that the working class has to gain concessions from the rich: think strikes, for instance.      

When firms can be certain that they will never have to pay tariffs on the reimportation of their products produced offshore, strikes matter a wee bit less, as this story over the weekend from the NYT summed up:

The auto industry’s longest strike in more than 40 years, a walkout at a parts supplier that disrupted production at 32 General Motors plants, will end within days if the picketing workers ratify a tentative agreement reached late Friday with their employer, American Axle and Manufacturing....

People involved in the negotiations have said they expect the agreement to call for closing two or three plants, offering buyouts worth as much as $140,000, and drastically reducing the wages and benefits of workers who remain with the company...

American Axle has said it needs to cut wages nearly in half, from about $28 an hour to as little as $14, to remain competitive with rivals that have squeezed similar concessions from the U.A.W. During the strike, the company threatened to permanently close the plants where workers were picketing and shift work to Mexico instead.

This is capping off nearly 15 years of NAFTA being used to break labor's back. Our friend Kate Bronfenbrenner did a study for the North American Commission on Labor Cooperation showing that after passage of NAFTA, as many as 62 percent of U.S. union drives faced employer threats to relocate abroad, and the factory shut-down rate following successful union certifications tripled. Such defeats provide the institutional backdrop to a generation of wage stagnation and corporate takeover of government.

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