Category Archives: Trade

Don’t Curse, Organize

Source: Michael Kazin, Dissent, Winter 2017

A cruel irony lurks beneath the debacle of the 2016 election: Donald Trump may have won the roughly 80,000 voters he needed in the Rust Belt at least in part because he vowed to fix a massive problem of twenty-first-century capitalism that the left had propelled into national prominence: economic inequality. The insurgents of Occupy, the fighters for $15, and Bernie Sanders and his young apostles had all drawn the media’s attention to the nagging wage gap, bad trade deals, and lousy, non-union jobs. Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 partly because he stoked this discontent when he ran against a businessman who wrote off nearly half the population of his own country. But last fall, it was Trump, not the uninspiring Democratic nominee, who made an effective, albeit classically demagogic, appeal to white working people to change a system “rigged” against them. “He stoked his base’s fears,” observed Gary Younge in the Guardian; “she failed to give her base hope.”

So how should radicals and liberals resist and help defeat an administration hostile to every principle and policy that makes a decent society possible? Several contributors to this issue offer sharp, sensible views about those burning questions. …. Leftists, in and out of social movements, should instead seize the opportunity that Hillary Clinton’s defeat has given them—by transforming the Democratic Party from inside.

Articles include:
The Fight Ahead:

Tomorrow’s Fight
Jedediah Purdy
Trump has put us where he put his followers all year: frightened, in a besieged place, a country we do not feel we recognize, in need of a champion. Now we all have to be one another’s champions.

Left Foot Forward
Sarah Leonard
….Now that our enemies are in power, what comes next? For starters, if the Democrats stand a chance in the near future, Republicans have conveniently demonstrated for them what they did not believe coming from the left: economic populism works….

The Next Democratic Party
Timothy Shenk
Parties recover from defeat in two ways. They can try to beat the opposition at their own game, or they can try to change the rules of the game. Donald Trump did the latter. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

A Call for Sanctuary
Mae Ngai
The American public does not support mass removal of immigrants. And by turning cities and campuses into sanctuaries against raids and deportations, we have the power to stop it.

Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change
N. Turkuler Isiksel
Lessons from the autocrats’ toolkit. …. Confidence in the exceptional resilience of American democracy is particularly misplaced in the face of today’s illiberal populist movements, whose leaders are constantly learning from each other. Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook. Defenders of liberal democracy, too, must learn from each other’s victories and defeats. Below are some hard-earned lessons from countries that have been overrun by the contemporary wave of illiberal democracy. They could be essential for preserving the American republic in the dark years to come…..

A Devil We Know
Robert Greene
Frightening as it is, Trumpism has many precedents in U.S. history—and the social movements of the last century, from the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to ACT UP, offer important lessons for how to fight it.

Texas’s New Ground Game
Michelle Chen
….The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a gritty grassroots network linking three rapidly browning cities—San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston—has fought and won enough local battles to demonstrate the value of seeding incremental progressive wins on the neighborhood level in order to build a grassroots people’s movement. And they know better than to take anything about Texas for granted. For TOP’s communications director Mary Moreno, giving people a reason to believe voting still makes a difference in a politically predictable state starts with talking about them, not their vote…..

The Future of Work:

Introduction: No Retreat
Sarah Jaffe and Natasha Lewis
….When we sat down to consider the future of work, then, we decided to set aside the debate over whether, how many, and how fast the robots are coming and concentrate on these questions of politics, of power. Which workers have it, and how do they wield it? Whose work is valued, and how much? Who is a member of the working class these days, and how is that likely to change?

And we decided to think big. Though it might be hard to imagine a more dire political reality than the one we currently face, the shock of the recent election shows there is space for new political ideas. The authors in the following pages set out provocations and strategies to win the future we want, and warn of the futures we might get if we lose these fights…..

Thank God It’s Monday
Kate Aronoff
….Reverence for hard work is not simply a decorative gimmick, but core to the WeWork philosophy. The imperative to hustle reflects the way the founders see (and wish to shape) the future of work. Meanwhile, WeWork’s popularity is driven—in part—by the increasing atomization of labor, across income brackets. By offering workers an alternative to days spent alone behind a computer, Neumann and McKelvey discovered they could turn a profit by exploiting one of the defining features of work’s so-called future: isolation….

A Strike Against the New Jim Crow
Janaé Bonsu
(subscription required)
….Last September, inmates around the nation boldly resisted as exploited workers have often done in the past. They staged the largest prison strike in U.S. history. It was organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a group of prisoners and allies, and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a segment of the Industrial Workers of the World…..

Love’s Labor Earned
J.C. Pan
(subscription required)
….To most women today who find themselves exhausted by unwaged, unappreciated emotion work, receiving payment for it probably seems like a pretty delightful idea. Why continue to coddle and counsel men without getting something in return? Why work as therapists without charging therapist rates?….

Learning from the Rank and File: An Interview with Barbara Madeloni
Sarah Jaffe and Barbara Madeloni
On November 8, as the electoral map turned redder and redder, Massachusetts and the surrounding northeastern states began to look like a little blue island. Reliably Democratic in presidential elections even after a Republican took the governor’s office in the state two years ago, Massachusetts was still the site of significant election-night drama, as an initiative that would have drastically expanded the reach of charter schools was on the ballot—and went down, sixty-two to thirty-eight. Barbara Madeloni is the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and helped build the No on Two coalition that defeated the initiative. She spoke with Dissent about the lessons from that fight for the future of the labor movement as it prepares for the attacks that will likely come from a Trump administration.

An Economist’s Case for Open Borders
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
…..Last April, an economist named Branko Milanovic published a proposal to reduce global economic inequality in the Financial Times. The best way to help the world’s poor, he wrote, is to encourage movement of labor and get countries to open up their borders. But of course, that’s easier said than done: many citizens of rich host countries balk at the idea of increased migration. When they imagine foreigners settling down within their borders, they fear that their jobs, their benefits, and their idea of national (and, let’s face it, ethnic) unity will be threatened. The campaigning around the British initiative to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election will endure as the consequences of this talk in action. Milanovic’s suggestion is as follows: what if we make some concessions to these concerns and fears, and formally reduce the rights and benefits foreigners are entitled to, so long as they are welcome to come, work, and get a shot at improving their economic situation, at least for a limited time?….

Bargaining with Silicon Valley
Rebecca Burns
(subscription required)
…..At this rate, it’s unlikely that all of us will be working on online platforms anytime soon. But the defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are fully fungible, that is being embraced not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers and the broader right. Under the guise of inevitability, a host of tech, business, and anti-union groups appear eager to use the gig economy as a Trojan horse for changes that affect far more workers: privatizing what remains of the social safety net, “modernizing” (read: gutting) key labor laws, and further hobbling unions…..

A Left Vision for Trade
Erik Loomis
(subscription required)
….Both Trump and Clinton explained their objection to the TPP in terms of the very real threat it posed to American jobs. But globalization is not going away, with or without the TPP. So how can we make it fairer?….

Trade Liberalization and Mortality: Evidence from U.S. Counties

Source: Justin R. Pierce, Peter K. Schott, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 22849, November 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We investigate the impact of a large economic shock on mortality. We find that counties more exposed to a plausibly exogenous trade liberalization exhibit higher rates of suicide and related causes of death, concentrated among whites, especially white males. These trends are consistent with our finding that more-exposed counties experience relative declines in manufacturing employment, a sector in which whites and males are disproportionately employed. We also examine other causes of death that might be related to labor market disruption and find both positive and negative relationships. More-exposed counties, for example, exhibit lower rates of fatal heart attacks.

Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, 2016

From the summary:
The Department of Labor’s annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor focuses on the efforts of certain U.S. trade beneficiary countries and territories to eliminate the worst forms of child labor through legislation, enforcement mechanisms, policies and social programs.

The Report presents:
– Findings on the prevalence and sectoral distribution of the worst forms of child labor in each country.
– Country-specific suggestions for government action (since 2009).
– Individual country assessments that identify where Significant, Moderate, Minimal, or No Advancement has been made (since 2011).

The Report serves as a resource to foreign governments, NGOs, academics and policymakers working on labor and human rights issues. It helps inform Congress and Executive Branch agencies that formulate labor and trade policy and is an important resource for the Department in assessing future technical assistance and research priorities as it seeks to combat child labor around the world.

The Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) has published the Findings each year since 2002, as mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000 (TDA). The TDA requires that countries fulfill commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor to be eligible for certain U.S. trade preference programs. It also requires the U.S. Secretary of Labor to issue annual findings on beneficiary country initiatives to implement these commitments.
Related:
Report Magazine

Want to help free trade’s losers? Make ‘adjustment assistance’ more than just burial insurance

Source: Marina v. N. Whitman, The Conversation, October 24, 2016

…So what has made free trade – which still gets the support of most Americans – such a political pariah?

A major explanation is that there are losers as well as winners from its effects. The winners may be far more numerous, yet the impact on the losers, from lost jobs and lower wages, is more intense and personal….

….In other words, while the overall welfare effects of trade liberalization are generally positive, the impact on some subgroups, particularly the less well-educated, are negative and much larger.

And the United States is less generous than other rich countries in providing both reemployment assistance and income support to workers hurt by these changes.

The primary U.S. program aimed at mitigating this negative impact is known as trade adjustment assistance (TAA). That its intended recipients call it “burial insurance” sort of sums up its image problem…..

Looking for Local Labor Market Effects of NAFTA

Source: Shushanik Hakobyan, John McLaren, Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 98 No. 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using U.S. Census data for 1990 to 2000, we estimate effects of NAFTA on U.S.wages. We look for effects of the agreement by industry and by geography, measuring each industry’s vulnerability to Mexican imports and each locality’s dependence on vulnerable industries. We find evidence of both effects, dramatically lowering wage growth for blue-collar workers in the most affected industries and localities (even for service-sector workers in affected localities, whose jobs do not compete with imports). These distributional effects are much larger than aggregate welfare effects estimated by other authors.

Increase in imports adversely affects provision of public services across U.S. localities

Source: IZA Newsroom, October 19, 2016

Recent research suggests that workers living in places with a heavy manufacturing presence in the U.S. have experienced both a decline in wages and a deterioration of employment prospects due to increased imports from China. While social assistance and trade adjustment programs at the federal level did kick in, they did not make up for the adverse labor market outcomes in these areas. As a result, workers in the manufacturing sector, but also in non-manufacturing sectors which do not face direct competition from China, have experienced a decline in incomes.

Local governments may play an important role in this context both by mitigating risk through welfare spending and by investing in public services, such as high quality education and infrastructure, to ensure the competitiveness of workers and firms. The problem is that funding for these public services is highly localized in the U.S., with a heavy reliance on property and sales tax revenues. Therefore, a decline in the level of local economic activity and incomes in an area’s labor market depresses revenues and restricts the ability of local governments to fund services, precisely at a time when these expenditures may be needed the most. ….

Related:
Trade Shocks and the Provision of Local Public Goods
Source: Leo Feler, Mine Zeynep Senses, Discussion Paper No. 10231, September 2016

From the abstract:
We analyze the impact of trade-induced income shocks on the size of local government, and the provision of public services. Areas in the US with declining labor demand and incomes due to increasing import competition from China experience relative declines in housing prices and business activity. Since local governments are disproportionately funded through property and sales taxation, declining property values and a decrease in economic activity translate into less revenue, which constrains the ability of local governments to provide public services. State and federal governments have limited ability to smooth local shocks, and the impact on the provision of public services is compounded when local income shocks are highly correlated with shocks in the rest of the state. The outcome is greater inequality not only in incomes but also in the quality of public services and amenities across US jurisdictions.
Text: See Discussion Paper No. 10231

Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – 2016

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), September 2016

From the summary:
The Department of Labor’s annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor focuses on the efforts of certain U.S. trade beneficiary countries and territories to eliminate the worst forms of child labor through legislation, enforcement mechanisms, policies and social programs. Read More
Related:
Report Magazine

List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor – 2016

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), September 2016
ILAB maintains a list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards, as required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005 and subsequent reauthorizations. As of September 30, 2016, the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor comprises 139 goods from 75 countries.

ILAB maintains the List primarily to raise public awareness about forced labor and child labor around the world and to promote efforts to combat them; it is not intended to be punitive, but rather to serve as a catalyst for more strategic and focused coordination and collaboration among those working to address these problems.

Publication of the List has resulted in new opportunities for ILAB to engage with foreign governments to combat forced labor and child labor. It is also a valuable resource for researchers, advocacy organizations and companies wishing to carry out risk assessments and engage in due diligence on labor rights in their supply chains.
Related:
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Bibliography (PDF)

Who wrote the rules for the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Source: Todd Allee, Andrew Lugg, Research & Politics, Vol. 3 no. 3, July-September 2016

From the abstract:
Twelve governments recently signed the much-anticipated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), sparking heated debate about its merits. As a primary motivation for this first “mega-regional” agreement, US President Barack Obama argues that the TPP is a way for the USA, and not China or someone else, to write the global trade rules of the future. This begs some important questions, namely which country or countries really did write most of the TPP and thus whose agenda for 21st century trade might it advance? To answer these questions, we compare the recently-released text of the TPP to the language in the 74 previous trade agreements that TPP members signed since 1995. Our text-as-data analyses reveal that the contents of the TPP are taken disproportionately from earlier US trade agreements. The ten preferential trade agreements (PTAs) that most closely match the TPP are all US PTAs. Moreover, the contents of controversial chapters, such as the one on investment, are drawn even more heavily from past US treaty language. Our study and findings apply power-based accounts of international institutions to a landmark new agreement, and portray a more active, template-based process of international diffusion.

ISDS: Expanding Corporate Power to Attack Laws in Every State

Source: Public Citizen, Global Trade Watch, September 2016

At the heart of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are new rights for thousands of multinational corporations to sue the U.S. government before a panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums, including for lost future expected profits, to be paid by America’s taxpayers. The corporations need only convince the lawyers that a U.S. federal or state law, court ruling or regulatory decision violates the extraordinary new rights the TPP would grant them. The decisions are not subject to appeal. This shocking process, called “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS), empowers multinational corporations to attack the laws we rely on for a clean environment, financial stability, affordable medicines, safe food and decent jobs.

The United States has largely avoided ISDS attacks because past treaties were with nations that did not have many investors here. But the TPP and a similar deal with European nations, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), would change that. Under existing U.S. treaties, other countries have paid nearly $3 billion to corporations for toxics bans, water and timber policies, land-use rules regulatory permits, and more. Another $70 billion in claims are now pending against climate and energy laws, medicine pricing policies, pollution cleanup orders and other public interest policies.

Nationwide, the TPP would roughly double U.S. exposure to ISDS attacks and a TTIP would quadruple the exposure, spelling an unprecedented increase in U.S. ISDS liability. Under all existing ISDS-enforced pacts, the total number of firms that can currently launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government is about 4,100 foreign corporations that own about 9,829 U.S. subsidiaries. The TPP would newly empower more than 3,682 additional corporations in TPP countries that own more than 10,085 subsidiaries here, to launch cases against the U.S. government. The TTIP would newly empower more than 12,100 European Union parent corporations that own more than 26,961 U.S. subsidiaries, to go to the panels of corporate lawyers and demand U.S. taxpayer compensation.

How could your state be threatened? Click the map above to find out.
Related:
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Expanded Corporate Power, Lower Wages, Unsafe Food Imports