Are We in a Trade War?

Celeste Drake

Celeste Drake Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO

TV pundits keep repeating that we’re in a “trade war.” What does that even mean?

Now, let’s tone down the rhetoric just a bit. Real wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, are deadly, dangerous, scary affairs. No one should confuse tariffs with real wars.

In terms of economics, the closest thing we have to a “war” is the relentless attack on workers that has been taking place for several decades as economic elites (including corporate CEOsbad actor employers and the 1% who don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes) have worked to rig global economic rules to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary working people.  

The attack on workers has been waged on many fronts, from so-called “right to work” laws that deny our freedom, to regressive tax laws such as the recent Republican tax bill giving big tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, to attacks on overtime pay and workplace safety, to defunding schools and meals for our children. The attack on workers also comes in the area of trade policy, and includes unfair, predatory actions by China. Trade attacks on workers are aided and abetted by greedy corporations that outsource jobs and abuse workers, and by U.S. officials of both political parties who have failed to stand up for us.

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Obama Scolds Trump Tactics

Protests against Pittsburgh hospital expansion highlight city’s growing racial health disparities

Elham Khatami

Elham Khatami Associate Editor, Think Progress

More than 100 activists and employees took turns speaking at a packed Pittsburgh City Council hearing Tuesday on the proposed $2 billion expansion of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. They were there to demand that the health care giant agree to higher wages and unionization for workers before it moves forward with expansion.

Prior to the hearing, opponents of the plan marched to the city council building and held a rally, asking for UPMC to form a community health benefits agreement that would guarantee an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $15 and would ensure that all Pittsburgh residents, regardless of their location or insurance, have equal access to health care. (UPMC recently approved a plan to do increase the minimum wage by 2021, but protesters say that, by then, $15 will no longer be a living wage.)

UPMC must obtain the council’s approval before it can proceed with the expansion to build a vision and rehabilitation center in the up-and-coming Uptown neighborhood. The tax-exempt hospital chain is a non-profit, but opponents slammed it for raking in billions of dollars, while paying its workers “slave wages.”

“We’re here to remind UPMC that they are guests in our community. And when we say that we need a seat at the table, it’s because that’s our table,” Summer Lee, a Democratic socialist candidate for Pennsylvania state House, told the crowd at the rally.

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A Dark Veil

From the AFL-CIO

The Trump administration yesterday rescinded the Department of Labor’s “persuader rule” requiring companies to disclose any consultants or lawyers contracted for anti-union persuasion efforts. The most recent in a series of anti-worker regulatory rollbacks, the decision has drawn harsh condemnation from union leaders and working people.

When the Labor Department issued its persuader rule in 2016, it was hailed as a win for workplace transparency. Workers would have the right to know when their bosses hired outside union-busters to influence organizing decisions.

Then-Secretary of Labor Tom Perez explained it would “ensure that workers have the information they need to make informed decisions about exercising critical workplace rights….Informed decisions are the best decisions.”

In the wake of yesterday’s announcement, AFL-CIO National Media Director Josh Goldstein slammed the administration’s decision to shield the “sinister practices of employers and their hired guns.” “By repealing the persuader rule, the Department of Labor is siding with corporate CEOs against good government and transparency,” Goldstein said. “They have thrown a dark veil over the shady groups employers hire to take away the freedoms of working people.”

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If You Live in Missouri, Vote 'No' on Proposition A

On Aug. 7, Missouri voters will have the chance to vote against Proposition A, a divisive attack on working people funded by big corporations and their wealthy allies. The misleading measure is a direct attack on the rights of the working people of Missouri.

Here are the key reasons why Proposition A is wrong for Missouri:

  • Proposition A will drive down wages for Missouri families: If it passes, Proposition A will drive down wages for all Missourians. New research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that “right to work” laws like Proposition A are associated with lower wages and a weaker middle class. EPI found that wages were 3.1% lower in states with right to work laws like Proposition A. EPI’s Heidi Shierholz said, “If Missouri goes in the direction of right to work, we will see that the wages of workers, including those that are not in unions, will decline. Most middle-class workers spend their wages on things like food and clothes at local retailers.” The wage decline will harm businesses where middle-class workers shop.

  • Proposition A is not what it seems. Don’t trust it: While supporters of Proposition A claim it will benefit working people, the reality is that it will take away choices from Missourians. The Supreme Court already has ruled that workers don’t have to join a union if they choose not to. The court also has ruled that working people have the freedom to organize and join together to bargain for a better return on our work. These things are at stake with Proposition A.

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