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Unions Divided on China Policy
Howard Richman, 9/2/2010

The just-out September 20 issue of The Nation has an interesting article by Robert Dreyfus about division within the American union community on China (China in the Driver's Seat).

On the one side is Andy Stern, former President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who makes frequent trips to China to visit with China's Communist-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). (According to Wikipedia, Stern also makes frequent visits to the Obama White House.) 

Stern justifies his trips to China with the claim that he is helping push the ACFTU in a positive direction. Dreyfus writes:

"I get in trouble on Glenn Beck saying, 'Workers of the world unite!' It's not just a slogan," Stern says. It's critical, he adds, for US and Chinese workers to see each other as allies, and he argues that efforts such as his can help shift the ACFTU in a direction that will make it much more representative of its hundreds of millions of members....

On the other side are the United Steel Workers, the AFL-CIO, and the Economic Policy Institute. Dreyfus writes:

For many in the US labor movement, there's little doubt that China is a grave menace, at the very least, to American jobs and prosperity. At the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (a project supported by the United Steelworkers), the book on China is this: it's a bullying, mercantilist power, competing unfairly with other countries by artificially keeping the value of its currency low and by suppressing labor rights and trampling on environmental standards, cannibalizing a generation or two of poor migrant workers to churn out cheap products for export. In this narrative, China exploits the willingness of multinationals to set up unregulated factories along its industrial southern coast, meanwhile blackmailing those firms to share trade secrets and technology with China as the price of admittance. It's a sweeping indictment, and the remedy they suggest involves some combination of daunting and punitive tariffs—as much as 25 percent across the board on imports from China, some say—along with sanctions and other measures to force China to revalue the renminbi, its currency, by 40 percent or more.

Not all American unions are happy with President Obama's policy. He lets China and the other mercantilist countries manipulate the value of the dollar and use other trade manipulations to increase their products' competitiveness while keeping out American exports to them.

As a result, U.S. manufacturing workers lose good-paying jobs and are forced into unemployment, into community colleges, and into low-paying jobs. The Scaled Tariff that my father, son and I have proposed would end mercantilism, jumpstart our economy, and preserve our blue-collar middle class.

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Comment by E Barke, 9/4/2010:

Andy Stern destroyed the most democratic union in America.  He used his office to build "HISW" dream even at the expense of its members.  He had leaders install the largest dues increase in the history of SEIU if not the labor movement and then sytematically removed those same leaders.  He merged locals for "membership power"  that looked much more like placing his allies to secure his own agenda.  He eliminated any regional structure, 925 the organizatin for working women and eliminated AFRAM the organization for minorities.  He removed any and all obsticles so he could totally consolidate the union.  Hell it probably teaching the Chinese leadership what real control is all about!

Response to this comment by Howard Richman, 9/4/2010:
Very interesting! Thank you for the insights.

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