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Strikes Hit U.S. Factories in Mexico as Corrupt Unions Again Sell Out Workers

This week, the city of Matamoros, Mexico is again seeing wildcat strikes as expected annual wage increases have been traded away by corrupt unions.

Though the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) includes improved labor rights terms and Mexico enacted significant labor law reforms in 2019 – both of which could help workers in Mexico to organize and win real changes in their lives – little has changed on the ground.

That’s why workers in factories along the Texas border are on strike right now.

They are part of a growing independent labor movement seeking to oust corrupt “protection” unions and transform working conditions in Mexico, where real wages since NAFTA was enacted 25 years ago are 40% lower than manufacturing wages in China.

The 20/32 Movement

The story of the Tridonex plant, operated by a subsidiary of Philadelphia auto parts maker Cardone, spotlights the glaring enforcement failures for both Mexico’s new labor law and the revised NAFTA.

While Cardone still claims to be Philadelphia’s largest manufacturing employer in 2016, the company announced it was sending 1,500 of the city’s union jobs to Matamoros. It sent another 200 in the years since.

In 2019, workers in dozens of maquiladoras in Matamoros, including Tridonex, began organizing work stoppages demanding pay raises enacted by the new Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Their demands – a 20% salary increase and a one-time bonus of 32,000 pesos – helped launch the 20/32 Movement.

After numerous wildcat strikes protesting not only factory bosses but also the corrupt unions that collaborate with them to lock in low wages and bad working conditions, the movement won.

After the 2019 victory, Tridonex workers petitioned to join the independent union that was born in the strikes: the National Independent Union of Industry and Service Workers, or SNITIS. The local labor board refused to allow an affiliation vote.

In the spring of 2020, the region was again at the center of labor controversy as workers launched wildcats strikes while factory management defied COVID-19 closure orders. Against this backdrop, Tridonex workers marched on the local labor board, which was still refusing to issue the decision to send the workers’ union dues to SNITIS.

Months later, a lawyer and labor advocate who represents workers at Tridonex and other factories during the strike, Susana Prieto Terrazas, became a target of reprisals by the local powers-that-be. Arrested and wrongfully charged with instigating a riot, Susana was held in jail for a month on trumped-up charges of “mutiny, threats and coercion.”

Amidst growing international pressure, including from the U.S. Congress, she was released under coercive conditions, including banishment from Matamoros, designed to stop her from representing independent unions.

After her release, the governor of Chihuahua, Matamoros’ neighboring state to which Prieto was banished, issued new arrest warrants for which she has a hearing on February 25. Since then, Susana has been subjected to repeated threats on her life and safety. In early January, she sent a desperate plea to Mexico’s president, who had promised her protection but failed to follow through.

It has been a year since Tridonex workers petitioned to change their union, and to this day, the company has not held a vote and the local labor board has not acted.

Not only are the actions of Tridonex a clear violation of Mexico's new labor law reforms and the protections provided under the revised NAFTA, the story provides a clear-cut case of what outsourcing incentivized by race-to-the-bottom trade deals looks like on the ground: decent union jobs are sent to countries where wages are far lower and where gross labor violations are routine. Good jobs are transformed into bad jobs, and union security is replaced by exploitation and violence.

Unless Mexico’s labor law reforms and the revised NAFTA are enforced, nothing will change.

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 25: Rethinking Trade in 2021: What Are We For?

With Georgia’s run-off elections shifting control of the Senate to the Democrats, the party will have a lot more room to pursue progressive reforms than in previous years. What does this mean for fixing our rotten trade rules, and what kinds of policies should we be pursuing?

In part one of this episode, we address this question by discussing the TRADE Act of 2009. Co-sponsored by 135 members of the House and developed with a coalition of labor, environmental and other civil society organizations, the TRADE Act laid out a comprehensive vision for trade policies that would promote employment and development while protecting the environment and public health. But a lot has happened since then, from the harsh lessons COVID-19 had taught us about the facilities of hyperglobalization to the growing climate crisis to Big Tech’s monopoly choke hold. So how would progressives build on the vision of a decade ago?

In part two, we look at President-Elect Biden’s commitment to impose a moratorium on new trade deals until major investments are made to protect U.S. workers, and we discuss how important it is that this period also include a process of rethinking and fixing U.S. trade policy to work for people and the planet.


Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Welcome back to rethinking trade where we don't just talk about trade policy, we fight change it. I'm Ryan and I'm joined once again by our in house trade expert, Lori Wallach. Lorie, it's hard to know exactly how to start this episode, given the shocking things that have happened in the last week and a half in the United States. I'm sure more is to come. One thing that's not changing, however, is the results of the Georgia election and the fight for control of the Senate, which will no doubt have an impact on the fight for good trade policies in the coming year and years. I know many of our listeners are wondering whether these results will help deliver new trade rules that work for working people and the planet. To introduce this new political moment, though, I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to actually step backwards a bit to just over a decade ago to discuss a comprehensive trade bill that you know a lot about called the TRADE Act. And then I want to talk about the more immediate trade deal moratorium that President-elect Biden has committed to. Let's start with the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act or TRADE Act. What was this bill? Or why is it important for us to be discussing it today?
Lori: So the TRADE Act was a comprehensive vision of a different kind of trade and investment policy that would promote employment, development, accountability, promote the environment and public health. And it was developed from the bottom up from members of Congress who would oppose the old NAFTA/WTO model of trade agreements, and a vast set of citizens groups, family, farm groups and consumer groups, labor unions and environmental groups, faith groups and small business groups. And it basically came out of a process that was a year long, that was basically started with discussions, what would it be? What would we be for? What do we want? What are the outcomes we want, and then some of the trade wonky allies sat down and start writing the technical trade language that would get to those results. And then there was an iterative editing process, until ultimately, with the members of Congress and the outside groups that basically are like the core constituency of the Democratic Party, a fully articulated version of what kinds of trade agreements, how to review the old ones. And if they weren't working, fix them, and how to replace the fast track trade authority with a new process that would put an emergency brake and a steering wheel on the negotiations, to make sure that the substantive vision in the TRADE Act was going to be the outcome for agreements negotiated under this new process. And the thing that's the most amazing about this is a 60, page long, detailed bill ended up with something like 150 c0-sponsors, agreeing that this should be the new way forward on trade.

Ryan: And what is what is this bill mean, now 10 years later, do you think we need a new TRADE Act for today?

Lori: For sure, because at that point, the focus was on a lot of issues that are still around with serious problems, offshoring of jobs, race to the bottom wages, multinational companies, abusing workers and developing countries and effectively violating people's basic human and labor rights to maximize their profits. And really bad environmental practices and attacks on our best existing environmental and health and safety laws. All those issues were issues already. And those issues were dealt with in the TRADE Act. But now there's been a decade more experience of what does and doesn't work as far as the rules and trade agreements and whether they can change the behavior of these dangerous multinational corporations. But then there are a whole set of issues that weren't at the forefront when the TRADE Act was being created. Climate we knew, but we didn't know that it was the do or die crisis of our future. Or at least a lot of people didn't. Some smart people did. The whole sort of issues around the massive digital monopolies, the Amazons, the Googles, Facebook, the platforms that have both become enormous threats it to small businesses to the safety of consumers with their unsafe imported products that sneak around normal tax and other obligations small businesses have to face, but also their monopoly of information and their training and our private information as if it were commodity, those issues were really not engaged then. And those issues are now some of the outrageous tie the hands of government rules that big companies are trying to insert into trade agreements. And then finally, I think the TRADE Act, though it was way ahead of its time, also didn't fully incorporate the degree to which multinational companies would be using the so called trade agreements to dodge things like financial regulation, and anti trust breaking up monopolies broadly, not just the big tech companies, and trying to systematically undermine the space government's had domestically to ensure that the economy works for most people. So all of the outrageous problems that were surfaced with COVID of these hyper brittle globalized supply chains, where the only thought was efficiency, not web and corporate profits, not whether consumers could get goods they needed for their health and safety and to deal with emerging crises. So those are things that any new trade policy going forward is going to need to deal with up front that the TRADE Act did not.

Ryan: And I will drop a link in the description of this podcast episode where you can learn more about the TRADE Act from Public Citizen's website. Laurie, for part two of the podcast, I wanted to talk about President Elect Biden's commitment to impose a moratorium on trade deals, meaning he would not negotiate any new deals until we've, quote, made major investments here at home and our workers and our communities, equipping them to compete and win in the global economy. That includes investing in education, infrastructure and manufacturing, here at home and quote, why is it important that Biden stick to this plan, and maybe you could just tell us a little more about this plan.

Lori: It's important that Biden's stick to his promise about a moratorium on new trade agreements. And that also that that moratorium practically means that they're not going to continue with the negotiations that the Trump administration started. For free trade agreements with the United Kingdom, or with Kenya, or for new rules that big tech wants at the WTO to handcuff all of our governments from protecting our privacy and holding these monopolies accountable. All of that stuff needs to go on hiatus. And a lot of it just needs to get dumped. Because number one, a lot of the existing rules directly conflict with the goals and policies that the Biden administration itself has said it will prioritize as part of its build back better plan. So expanding by American and by America, reinvesting our tax dollars, into creating innovation and jobs, and improving our infrastructure here violates existing trade rules, giving subsidies to create the industries of the future, necessary for our resilience and ability to respond to future crises necessary to improve our economic resilience in this global economy, necessary to address economic injustice by investing in communities of color and poor parts of the country that have not had real investments for decades to create jobs, and move the economies in these regions. Those kinds of subsidies, depending on how they're done will violate WTO and NAFTA rules against subsidies or breaking up the big tech firms regulating the banks making sure we have affordable health care, depending how any of that is done, or all of the most common sense things we need to do with respect to the climate crisis with respect to energy, for instance, a bunch of those violate or conflict with the service sector, corporate guarantees and the WTO and all of our free trade agreements. And that's just serve a sampling of the problem. So to do what the bytom ministration is guaranteeing they're going to do domestically, not about trade, they need to fix the existing rules, they should not be doubling down on damnation and problems they need to fix the existing rules. And then the number two reason why this moratorium is critical is we need to get the rules, right.
So we know what didn't work. We know what the policy disasters of that have been. And we now have seen that political disasters, that these corporate rigged rules that leaves so many Americans clobbered and feeling hurt and aggrieved have caused. So we need to take the damn time to have the conversation in Congress, in the administration, with outside stakeholders in, in labor in the environmental and consumer and small business and family farm and faith communities, everyone who could be engaging needs to be engaging in sorting out what do we want trade policy to do? The new US Trade Representative nominee Catherine Thai said exactly right. trade is not an end until itself. It is a tool to use to promote our values and our goals. So as a country, we need to have a discussion about how do we make a new trade policy for the future that actually promotes not undermine undermines where we want to go with climate and saving the planet; with creating good jobs and improving people's wages, and dealing with racial and economic inequalities that have blighted our nation for decades. What are we going to do? As a nation? How do we want to go building an infrastructure that's not just safe, but creates innovation gets us ready to be part of the climate solution, not part of the disaster? All of those questions need to be thought out in the context of "Oh, that tool that's called trade, the rules we've been using make it worse, how do we actually make it better? How do we harness that tool to promote our goals, not have the old policies undermine the things we care about." And without a moratorium to basically put the steamroller in neutral and pull it off, and park it and have a thoughtful discussion. We're going to just be continuing the disaster, or a lot of us are going to be distracted from being able to put our shoulders to fighting what for what we're for. Because we'll be in these stupid backwards repeated fights to stop the bad stuff. And you know, we'll do it and you know, we can. We stop the TPP, US activist united. But what a dang waste of time as compared to having this hiatus and having time to think about how we're going to go forward together.

Ryan: And how can civil society organizations like the ones that you've mentioned, how can folks like that and grassroots activists, like many of our listeners, helped shape this process to ensure that it results in real progressive changes in our trade policies?

Lori: Well, that's the perfect question. So the first thing is, we have to make sure that the moratorium is real. And that includes those agreements, including the WTO, big tech agreements, the UK and Kenya free trade agreements, and any new investment agreements with ISDS or without are not going forward. First thing to do about that is I recommend folks call members of Congress, email text, right? They're members of Congress with a two part message. Number one, I want this moratorium on trade, and I want to be reliant needs to include all the leftover Trump agreements. And number two, right to me member of Congress, and tell me what the new trade policy is going to be after this moratorium, I want to be part of creating that I want you to be part of creating that we need to replace our old trade policy. You want to get the members of Congress thinking about it, and you want to get them engaged. So open that discussion, you don't have to have the answers. And then number two, to help you think about the answers go to our website, tradewatch.org and rethink trade. Both of those are places where number one, you can see what was in that trade at. But number two, you can start thinking for yourself what's most important to you, in a good trade policy, what things should always be in trade agreements, obviously, they all have to have a floor of decency that companies have to meet if they want to get the benefits of the trade agreements, certain labor and wage standards, certain environmental standards, certain human rights standards, they don't pay, they don't play. And number two, there's certain things trade agreements can never have again, some of them obvious like, for instance, big new protection monopolies for Big Pharma, to jack up medicine prices, the Investor State Dispute Settlement system that has corporations empowered to attack our governments. Basically, the bottom line is all of us progressives, labor unionists, activist, environmentalist, small business people, people of faith, we banded together and we made Trump have to go renegotiate his renegotiate NAFTA. And the deal we got was not perfect. It's not what we're for. We all said it. It's just the floor from which we are going to continue the fight and build onward. So this next piece of business is to remind Congress that NAFTA ain't the fix the new NAFTA is where we start from, and to get them engaged and get your brains engaged. This is that turning around moment, an enormous amount of hard works been done till now. So now, at that point, what do we for? What do we want? We will use this moratorium after winning this moratorium to actually turn around and actually rethink trade. So we get trade policies that support the goals and values that we all support.

Ryan: Rethinking trade is produced by public citizen's global trade watch, I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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Defenders of Trade Policy Status Quo Say Black and Latino Workers Not Hurt by U.S. Trade Policies, Despite Data to the Contrary

Last week, we published a report showing past U.S. trade policies have had a disproportionately negative impact on Black and Latino workers. Defenders of the trade status quo are arguing that our focus on trade-related job loss, downward pressure on wages and income inequality was off base. 

Their main substantive argument was one made for decades by defenders of the trade policy status quo: Even if some workers lost jobs, we all ended up better off because we had access to less expensive, imported stuff. 

Except, that has not been true for most of us for many years. As job offshoring moved up the wage ladder, the losses we suffer in wages now significantly outweigh the savings we get as consumers. Said who? The grandfather of modern trade economics, Nobel laureate Professor Paul Samuelson.

According to standard trade theory, while specific workers who lose their jobs due to imports may suffer, the vast majority of us gain from trade “liberalization” because we can buy cheaper imported goods.

However, as jobs have been offshored from more sectors of the economy and job offshoring has moved into higher wage jobs, this is no longer necessarily true. 

Professor Samuelson published a startling 2004 academic paper that mathematically shows how the offshoring of higher-paid jobs to countries like China and India can cause U.S. workers to lose more from reduced wages than they gain from cheaper imported goods. I recommend reading the paper, even if you skip the mathematic formulas through which he proves this point. Because this is the scholar whose groundbreaking work applying the theory of free trade to modern economic realities is the basis of the trade-liberalization-is-a-net-gain-for-all fact so widely accepted. Except, it no longer holds true, and he explains quite clearly why this is the case.

A few years before Professor Samuelson’s paper, the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) applied the actual trade flow, consumer price and employment and wage data to the theorem. They found that when you compared the lower prices of cheaper goods to the income lost from low-wage competition under status quo trade policies, the trade-related wage losses outweigh the gains in cheaper goods for the majority of U.S. workers. The CEPR study found that U.S. workers without college degrees (61% of the workforce) lost an amount equal to about 10% of their wages, even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods. That meant a net loss of more than $3,500 per year for a worker earning the then-median annual wage of $35,540.

At the time, CEPR’s findings were widely attacked. And then Professor Samuelson’s paper showed that what they found was not a fluke or some anomalous years of data, but rather the new reality.

Since then, other proponents of trade liberalization have published papers discussing permanent, significant trade-related wage losses for many – for instance David Autor and colleagues with respect to China trade. And there also is broad consensus in the economics field that the wage suppressing feature of trade liberalization is a major contributor to income inequality here. The other critiques of our report on trade-impacts on Black and Latino workers fall into the category of distracting statistical gymnastics and misdirection.

We point out that in the decades since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States has lost millions of higher-paying manufacturing jobs. We found that Black and Latino workers were disproportionately employed in nine of the ten sectors hardest hit.

The standard counter argument that the U.S. economy created millions of jobs during the same period is irrelevant. Even if overall unemployment remained low because lower-paying service sector jobs were being created, Black and Latino workers disproportionately lost better-paying manufacturing jobs, and as a result they suffered significant wage losses. Trade policy shapes the quality or types of jobs available for people of different education levels, and thus affects wages. Other factors, such as fiscal and monetary policy, generally have a greater influence on the total number of jobs available in an economy.

Or as a National Bureau of Economic Research study puts it more formally: “Offshoring to low wage countries and imports [are] both associated with wage declines for U.S. workers. We present evidence that globalization has led to the reallocation of workers away from high wage manufacturing jobs into other sectors and other occupations, with large declines in wages among workers who switch.”

Speaking about wages, the standard counter argument critics have also raised, that average hourly wages have grown in the past two decades, is the same as saying there has been inflation. What counts is inflation-controlled real median wages – what our earnings can buy and how much the majority of us are making.

Economists now widely name “increased globalization and trade openness” as a key explanation for the unprecedented failure of wages to keep pace with productivity, as noted in Federal Reserve Bank research. Even economists who defend status-quo trade policies attribute much of the wage-productivity disconnect to a form of “labor arbitrage” that allows multinational firms to continually offshore jobs to lower-wage countries.

And finally, critics raised the most recent go-to, if false, argument about automation and technology having caused manufacturing job loss, not trade. If you want to see the data, check out this paper but here’s the gist of it:

First, investment in automation actually slowed during the post-2000 period of mass manufacturing job loss. However, during that period, the U.S. trade deficit exploded. Researchers have found that job displacement from technology is at its lowest level in decades now, even as the automation-not-trade argument has become increasingly popular among defenders of the trade status quo.

Second, data often used to show that automation-caused manufacturing job loss are premised on a basic misinterpretation. The popular view is that, because the value of what is being produced in the U.S. manufacturing sector has grown even as millions of manufacturing jobs were lost, each manufacturing worker is producing more because factories were automated.

Labor economist Susan Houseman at the Upjohn Institute showed that this story is based on the mistaken assumption that productivity growth reflects the rise of automation. In fact, the growth in U.S. manufacturing output comes mainly from just one sector: computers and electronics and has to do with how new iterations of machinery are valued. Overall manufacturing output today is only 8% higher than in the 1990s and remains lower than before the Great Recession.

Bottom line: Even accounting for Americans’ access to cheaper imported goods, the current trade model’s downward pressure on wages outweighs those gains, making most Americans net losers. And sadly, given our nation’s history of structural racism that has permeated the workplace, education, housing and more, our report’s findings may have been foreseeable: While working-class Americans of all races and ethnicities lost from the trade policies enacted by the United States over the past several decades, Black and Latino workers were overrepresented relative to their share of the workforce in industries that were hardest hit, and they lived in parts of the country that were slammed.

Add to that all of the non-trade corporate protectionism that lards up our “trade” agreements and no doubt we need to rethink our trade policies. At issue is what rules of the global economy can deliver for the most people and remedy past wrongs – not whether we should trade or not.

It is important to differentiate between free trade and our current “trade” agreements. Because one of the critiques to our study, by the conservative group National Taxpayers Union, focused on tariff cuts, it’s worth noting that today’s trade pacts are not mainly about cutting tariffs to expand trade. 

For instance, most of the chapters of the NAFTA, USMCA or WTO – as well as the now thankfully-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – actually have nothing to do with traditional trade matters like cutting tariffs, opening quotas, standardizing customs procedures and the like. Instead, these pacts set binding rules to which every signatory country must conform their medicine patents and pricing, financial regulatory, food safety, government procurement and other policies. 

Consider the raw protectionism for pharmaceutical companies in these pacts that help pharmaceutical firms avoid generic competition for longer and keep prices high. As we envision the philosophers of free trade - Adam Smith and David Ricardo - rolling in their graves at a high velocity at the prospect of  “free trade” agreements mandating that governments provide new rent-seeking opportunities for protected industries, let us contemplate how we got into this mess. 

With 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests historically given special access to the policy process, while the public, press and largely Congress have been shut out, it should not be surprising that corporate interests thoroughly captured the U.S. trade policy process. 

By hijacking the good name of “free trade” and taking advantage of a uniquely non-transparent policymaking process, they transformed trade agreements into delivery mechanisms for an array of retrograde policies – many of which failed when pursued in Congress and state legislatures. 

Instead of fighting about whether there was damage, given the data and people’s lived experience verify it, hopefully we can focus forward together on what new approach could deliver for more people in this country and around the world. 

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 24: How US Trade Policies Disproportionately Impact Black and Latino Workers

In this episode, Lori is joined by Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chaves of the United farm Workers and renowned civil rights activist, to discuss our Trade Discrimination report. This new research reveals how decades of corporate-rigged trade policies have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino workers.

In her decades of labor and civil rights activism, Huerta has witnessed how corporate-rigged globalization has gutted Latino and Black livelihoods and communities nationwide.

Trade Discrimination: The Disproportionate, Underreported Damage to U.S. Black and Latino Workers From U.S. Trade Policies, published this week at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, details how U.S. structural, race-based social and economic inequities that undermine the economic and social welfare of people of color have been further exacerbated by U.S. trade policies. You can find the report here.

Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to rethinking trade. We have a special episode this week because Global Trade Watch has just released a report called Trade Discrimination the Disproportionate Underreported Damage to U.S. Black and Latino Workers from U.S. Trade Policies. You can find the report linked in the description of this episode or at tradewatch.org joining Lori and I to discuss the very real stories behind all the data in the report is legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta. Dolores co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. And she's been a tireless voice for social and economic justice for half a century. Dolores, thank you so much for being here.

Dolores: Well, thank you very much for having me.

Ryan: Lori, why don't you get us started by telling us a little bit about this report. What does the report cover? And what are some of the big takeaways in it?

Lori: Well, the best part of this podcast is Dolores. So let me quickly lay out what the report is about. So a lot of people generally know about the damage that's been caused by corporate-led hyperglobalisation the kind of model that's been implemented over the last several decades by so-called trade agreements like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the World Trade Organization. But that mass outsourcing. And now as we learn with the COVID-19 crisis, the unreliable supply chains. That damage really has been mischaracterized as something that particularly impacted white working-class Americans. And in fact, in his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, basically, you know, hasted progressive critique of corporate globalization and job outsourcing and bad trade agreements. But he reframed it into a narrative of resentment with racialized appeals to target white working-class voters as the victims.

 And the reality is this new report called Trade Discrimination finds in looking at the government data on impacts of these trade agreements is that the trade-related decline of us manufacturing and the outsourcing of union call center jobs has had a dire impact on racial minorities. And in fact, in many ways, the damage has fallen disproportionately on people of color in the United States, from these race to the bottom trade agreements. And to some degree, we saw at the 2020 election, working-class voters, namely people who make $50,000 or less coming back to the Democrats in a big swing. That was that and union voters are two of the big reasons why Biden beat Trump. And so now it's kind of on the Democrats to prove to those working-class voters who are giving the democrats another chance that they got it, that the damage is real, and that the Democrats are going to do a new trade policy that actually delivers for working-class people. But part of the deal is the Democrats have to understand who the damaged parties are, and that they have a working-class problem, not just a white working-class problem. So here are the highlights of what our report of both surveying the other studies that have been done, but we did a lot of original data crunching shows with respect to how and why Black and Latino workers have suffered disproportionate injury. First of all, Black and Latino workers were disproportionately employed in the manufacturing industries that were the hardest hit by offshoring and import competition. So for instance, Black workers are about 10 and a half percent of the entire labor force when NAFTA starts, but they represented 14%, paper manufacturing 12% and chemicals 12% in transportation equipment, the auto sector trucks. So those are sectors that got flattened by NAFTA and China entering the WTO. Latinos were just under 9% of the labor force, but they were 12 and a half percent of the workers in manufactured fabricated metals, they were 12% of furniture 10 and a half percent of plastics and rubber. And the beverages industry are lots of imports are not coming from Mexico, had both over-represented African American Latino workers. Now, if you look at the sectors that got hit, and the sectors we have the biggest new trade deficits, you have just massive job losses, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, shows that black workers have lost nearly a half a million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA and the WTO. And so it was in part because the workers were in the sectors that there were explosions of deficits in manufacturing industries are offshoring. But that also then caused a huge stagnation in wages, because wages were basically flat in those industries, as there were lots of workers who no longer have those jobs now fighting for the same jobs, fewer numbers of them, compared to, you know, hospitality, and leisure, which pays a lot less to start with, didn't have great growth in wages, but they grew.

So as those jobs were disappearing, the other thing that really clobbered Black and Latino workers were where the jobs were leaving from. So the 20 US states that are the least racially diverse, had only 20% of all government certified trade job losses during NAFTA and WTO. But, for instance, the 15 states that are home to 85% of the total Latino population in the US represent over half of the certified trade job losses. The 15 states that are home to 85% of the Black population accounted for basically 3 million of the 4 million total manufacturing job losses. So not only was it that African Americans and Latinos were in the sectors of the economy clobbered, but they were in the parts of the country that got clobbered. And so cities like Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, that were incredibly hard to hit. We're also locations where Latinos had come particularly from Mexico several decades ago, more recently from Central America, to seek better lives in the manufacturing sector. 6 million black workers fleeing from racial terror and poverty in the Jim Crow South had fled to the manufacturing sector in the north and create vibrant communities in the first half of the 1900s. So this devastation in the sectors and in the parts of the country in the numbers of jobs also resulted in basically reinforcing existing structural racism because black and Latino workers who lost their jobs ended up having a much harder time than their white counterparts finding a replacement job According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certainly part of that is just racial discrimination, hiring, and promotion, etc. But then, the phenomenon basically of increased competition for a reduced number of well-paying jobs available to people without college degrees, then exacerbates these underlying racial discriminatory practices. So basically, after 25 years of NAFTA and WTO, the racial gaps in wage levels are in some areas wider have basically not closed with, for instance, black men earning 75 cents and Latino men earning 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men, black women earning 88 cents and Latinas 78 cents for every dollar earned by a white woman. And instead of getting better, those gaps have either stayed or gotten worse, which, you know, partially is our structural racism, but a big piece of it is the disappearance of the good union, middle-class jobs, that the trade agreements basically incentivize to be offshored and fostered a huge wave of job-killing imports. So that is the sum of this study, it challenges the conventional wisdom. And then the real question is what happened on the ground, and Dolores has been traveling around the country speaking in communities for decades. And so it's our honor to have her here to basically describe some of what this is actually meant practically that's the data, but what it meant to people. And you were one of the people who predicted this in the early 1990s. So, Dolores, I wanted you to tell a little bit of the stories that you were telling me back then, of what you thought was going to happen both to the apparel workers Latinas, in LA, two people working in making blue jeans on the border to people in the Central Valley, in the various Green Giant and other plants. And then what also happened to people in Mexico under this corporate trade regime?

Dolores: Well, we saw, what happened is that workers were devastated that the loss of workers is terrible. And we're talking about thousands and thousands of workers that have been left without jobs throughout the United States. And not only in Los Angeles, with places like Texas, places in the south, places in New York, the whole garment industry with his were totally destroyed. And every time that they talk about the trade wars, the one thing they forget to mention is that the corporations are really behind all of this, you know, like you have a right now in the United States, we have all of these 99 cent stores and dollar stores or whatever, that, you know, sell the cheap goods that come from China and other places. But none of the manufacturing has been done in the United States by us workers.

And it's had a devastating effect on our economy and on the workforce, but also on the political scene. So when you have so many people that are clamoring for jobs in the United States, and when you go to some of these cities in the Midwest, particularly where you had all of these factories, and you see these abandoned buildings, and then, of course, it's affected the tax base, because you don't have money coming into these cities, for schools, for libraries for job training programs, for infrastructure. So the economic impact of all of this has been, it just affected the United States terribly. And we see it played out when you have all of these people that put us in this last election, that vote for Donald Trump because people are angry because they don't have jobs. And then we see all of the homeless people on our streets. And, again, you think, "How can this happen?' When we are the richest country in the world, in the United States of America, and we have so many people in poverty, so many people that are homeless, people that have to work two jobs just to be able to pay the rent and pay food. And of course, now with a pandemic, that has also affected us workers. I mean, the devastation continues. And this in this whole notion that somehow people have to work for free, that workers shouldn't be given a living wage, they shouldn't be given a pension plan, they shouldn't be given a medical plan. And, and we don't have, it's the working people that really hold up a society, not only by creating the economic base in the income base, the revenue base of our society. So when you have the basis of your society, that is deteriorated to such a point, that it affects everything. And so, and I think it's also a moral ground when you think about it, that workers should be expected to work for minimum or less than minimum wages, literally for free, when even when they work, they cannot earn enough money, to be able to afford a home or to have a living wage. And so it's almost like making slavery, normal and legal.

Lori: And that is a phenomenon that you've just beautifully described that under the government data explaining what happened after NAFTA in WTO, has hit African American and Latino workers, disproportionately hard. So that 20 US states that are the least racially diverse, had only one-fifth of the government certified trade-related job loss, but the 15 states that are 85% of the total Latino population, they account for over half of the trade job loss of 1.6 million jobs. So I'm thinking about some of the places where Latino workers had built vibrant, middle-class communities, like the industrial workers in Chicago, like many people whose families had migrated to these factory union jobs to create a wonderful middle-class existence in the industrial sector. And I know you travel all over the country, what what are what's happening in those in those communities, Milwaukee has a very strong Latino community relating to the auto sector. And as well, obviously, the textile and apparel sectors all across the country, what's happened with these communities? Where El Paso where lembu hair obrera has organized valiantly, but they still lost 25,000 sewing jobs. What is your experience of what's going on in these communities now?

Dolores: Well, people live in poverty, they live in extreme poverty. And a lot of people they have to go to the service jobs, which of course, don't pay very well. And so again, it just means an increase in poverty, but it only affects people in terms of their income levels, but their educational levels so that people can't afford to go to college, that people can afford to have businesses. And then of course, it also displays itself in terms of delinquency, the maybe addiction to us in substance abuse, and of course, the it affects the health. And we've seen the pandemic, how the over the COVID-19 has affected Hispanics, and people are getting infected at a higher rate, people are dying at a higher rate. So it has all of these manifestations that come with poverty. And so it is, you might it reaches deep into the community. And it affects all of the social strata, the educational policies that I just mentioned. And it puts people at risk, basically, for everything that possibly could happen to people that are in poverty is happening to them. And then of course, and I do believe that part of the mass incarceration policies also have to do with the lack of job opportunities, because we have seen the mass incarceration that kind of came at the same time, as you have mentioned before, in your reports, that the mass incarceration systems coincide with these global trade policies and the export of jobs to other countries here in the United States. I think whoever does these social designs, I don't know whether they plan it this way, or it just happens that way. But it seems like they do coincide so that people's lives are not only do they have to live in poverty, but their whole careers and features are taken from them when they are when they are jailed. And you have these harsh criminal sentences that keep people in prison for years and years and years.

Lori: I'm wondering, as you've traveled around the country, and you are a heroine in so many Latino communities where you're celebrating you speak across the country, what you actually observed in Latino communities. And how have they been how what is your experience of how they've been directly impacted by the job loss from NAFTA from China trade? Do you have some memories personally, because you've been traveling the country for so many years that you actually have lived the timeline, from the highest rate of unionization and the strongest manufacturing base? You've lived through the whole period of deindustrialization. And what are your personal memories of some of these communities and what you've seen this shift do?

Dolores: Well, I think one of the hardest areas that have been hit I mentioned before, was the on the educational level. And even here in California, for instance, or we are like the fifth largest economy in the world, and that we could actually be a country and, again, have one of the richest states that we have in the United States of America. And yet we have such high poverty rates. For instance, in terms of the amount of money that is going to for education for our children in California, where California where that was going to school many decades ago, we were number one in the country, in terms of the amount of money that we gave per student, per education. Now we are number 39 in the country. And this is ability adversely affected people, young people of color. And, and it's not just in California, it's the same thing that happens when you go to Arizona, when you go to Texas, when you go to the Midwest, in Chicago, when you go to New York State, you have the same thing that is happening now that our children of color, are not getting an equitable education. And, and so this is true all over the United States of America. And it seems that somehow, is our black and brown communities expand and we know that they are growing in the United States of America get the amount of money that is there for education is shrunk. And it is shrunken in such a major way that all of these young people of color are not getting an equitable education. And this is, of course, going to have a lot of impacts in terms of the future of our country. When all of these young people, I mean, you know, hundreds of thousands every other graduate from high school. And of course, you have the ones that don't even finish high school, that this is going to have a big effect on our economy in the future.

Lori: Certainly the deindustrialization. But also now increasingly, the offshoring of union call centers, the offshoring of information technology, jobs, and medical transcription, jobs, and engineering jobs, this race to the bottom has gutted the tax bases of cities, and small towns across the country. And so that the students who are relying on the public schools, versus who have a way to buy their way into a private school to get a good education, what you're saying is, those are the students that are being the most impacted, which then just continues a trend of poverty.

Dolores: Yeah, and at the same time, these are the populations that are growing the fastest.

Lori: So for the future of our country, the rising majority, under this paradigm of race to the bottom, globalization, which has stolen so many good jobs and gutted the tax base, is basically creating a majority population that has not will have neither the quality education of previous generations. And that will not find the jobs that pay well, for people who don't have higher education, it's a real catch-22 is you said, it's like some kind of social design.

Dolores: And when you think about the only way that poor people can survive, again, I mentioned a little while ago, where you have all of these outlets that sell goods that come from China. And when we think about, you know, this is the only way that poor people can survive, is to, they're the ones that actually go to those stores for the things that they need. And so the system and perpetuates itself, it doesn't really give any remedies that just say people sustain themselves by going to the dollar store, even for groceries, you know, because they sell groceries now. And this is the only way that they can possibly survive is by being the consumers and sustainers of this poverty system.

Lori: So that is a downward spiral for sure. And when Joe Biden was running for president, he talked a lot about his build back better plan. And one of the things that's a big priority, and that plan is creating more manufacturing capacity, doing more investment in domestic jobs and education. And he has basically tried to think about how not only can we get out of the COVID economic crunch, but that when we come on the other side of it, we've actually invested to be in a better place than before the COVID-19 crisis happened. Do you have a sense that Joe Biden understands these very real dynamics that you're describing? And that he can we'll do something about it?

Dolores: I don't know. I think that's the question. The big question is, how do you get these corporations to cooperate? Because they don't really, I don't think they care. As long as prophets have their motive, and they want to make as much money as possible. I think they're going to continue to the system that gives them the greatest wealth. And I don't know that Joe Biden can rein them in, or what he can do to save them, you got to come back to the US, and you've got to pay taxes in the United States of America. You know, we recently lost proposition 13 here in California that we were all working on, that proposition would have been in $12 billion, 60% of it would have gone to our local communities, which are hurting because of COVID-19. And the other 40% would have gone to our school systems. But the corporations that they, you know, they got together and they spent all this money that they could, and ended the tax of this money that would have come in for this $12 billion would have come in from the wealthy corporations like Amazon, Disney, Chevron, only 10% of the wealthy corporations that work in California would have valued 2% of the money would have come from those very mega-corporations, but they did everything that they could to defeat it. So I think that is like a mirror that really shows that these wealthy corporations don't give a damn if our kids get an education or not. They don't really care if people live in poverty. And so the big question is, how was the president-elect, Biden going to rein these corporations and even when you're talking about, about, you know, Medicare for all, they will not stand up to the big pharmaceuticals and, and these big insurance companies, which is, the only way that we can get Medicare for All is by taking these, these people are out of the health business and, you know, giving the money to doctors and hospitals and nurses and the people that do tend to the, to the people that are sick, and not to these middle managers. And I don't know Joe Biden's going to be able to do that. He back down on Medicare already, because they just have such a powerful lobby, powerful communication systems. And the general public has no clue about what it what that even means, you know, they call it, quote-and-quote, socialism, and something that you have to be afraid of?

 Lori: Well, one thing you told me back during NAFTA, when we were moping, and in, in a very blue mood about how we would get some of the California Democratic members of Congress to vote against NAFTA. And, you know, I remember saying, boy, they're really convinced they don't want to vote against NAFTA, all these corporations are telling them, they have to vote for NAFTA. And I remember you saying something, like, we're just gonna have to make them do it, we're gonna have to organize. And that's been your whole life. That's something you've taught me, you've taught generations of people, that the companies don't want to do the thing that's good for the people, you have to make them do it. And so it strikes me that in a weird way, the COVID-19 crisis provided a lesson for a lot of people who aren't the working people who already knew that this system was rigged against them. All those people who you know, don't work in a factory, don't do a service job that isn't a doctor or a lawyer suddenly have this experience of somehow in the richest country in the world, they couldn't get the things they need it because we don't make it anymore. And it was suddenly a wake-up call that here we are, and they couldn't get masks, and no one could make masks and someone could die because they couldn't have a ventilator. And we couldn't make ventilators. And it just makes me wonder as you know, your that you are the Empress of organizing, what your view is about how we can leverage this unifying experience of how screwed we are in a country that can't make things anymore, to try and get some of the people who haven't really cared about what happens to the people who make things. But because they're the people who buy things, they're now also the people who are on the losing end of this version of trade and globalization. What is your view of how we can basically organize the people who make the stuff we're used to the people who bought the stuffing cans to make Joe Biden do the right thing?

Dolores: Well, I think it will continue the organizing, and I have a lot of hope. I mean, we have seen all the young people that are marching out there and on the issues of racial justice. And somehow I have said this before, but I know back in the 60s and the 70s, we had a cultural revolution in the United States of America. But you know, that's when the LGBTQ movement got, really, you might say, it grew so much, and the environmental justice movement was just starting. The woman's movement was like, in its second or third phase. The Civil Rights Movement made a lot of changes. And but I think this next revolution and ethics got it, the young people that wasn't gonna have to lead it. And it's got to be an economic revolution. I think before it might have been iffy because people didn't really feel the pain that much. But now I think people are not only feeling the pain but seeing the pain because you can't walk down a single street without or any city in America without seeing homeless people on the street. It's so it's all very, very visible now, and maybe doubted that we were going to this pandemic, this might be a good time to really start uplifting those messages and explaining to people like you do with your great work that you're doing on the research so that you can actually show people the data, as you're doing and say, "Look, this is what it looks like this is what's happening." And so, especially younger people that may have said, Well, I don't know how this all happened, I was just, you know, born into this, this system and this situation. And you can say, "No, this is how it happened. And these are the people that are making it happen. Okay, so now it's time for us to address this, and do it in a mass way," the way that people are now organizing around racial justice. And I think we saw one little piece of this when the republicans were trying to get rid of Obamacare. And so you had people demonstrating at the opposite of all of these senators, and Congress people that were involved in trying to get rid of Obamacare, and they back down. So it's got to be that same type of organizing. And I know it's a little bit more difficult with the virtual organizing. But I think the main thing is that we have to get people to understand and to see this, to see what's happened, because people really can't take action until they understand. And once they understand, then we can go for the solutions, and then put the pressure on the big corporations.

Lori: Ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here. First, Dolores Huerta, one of the deans of political organizing strategy and progress in the United States of America has given us our marching orders. And that is Dolores. That is spot on. And we can't tell you how much we appreciate the honor, you've honored us by coming to be on this podcast and sharing your wisdom. And so we will see you at the barricades as we fight for a trade system that is just for working people. And that puts the corporations on the receiving end of the limitations, not the environment, not the workers, not our health. Thank you so much.

 Dolores: Now, thank you for inviting me, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and your research and all of your great energy. Thank you very much, Lori. I feel honored.

Ryan: Rethinking trade is produced by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, I would encourage you to visit rethink trade org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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