Article 43


Friday, August 05, 2005

Book - The American Paradox

Psychology Today review on book about materialism.
The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.
David G. Myers, Ph.D. (Yale University Press)

Waking Up from the American Dream

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times .... “ So begins Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and so begins David G. Myers’ important book, The American Paradox.

What is the paradox? Simply put, it is this: As Americans have grown richer, they have grown less content with their lives. No society in the history of the world has ever enjoyed the standard of living Americans know today: Incomes are up, prices are stable, unemployment is down, life expectancy is rising; we enjoy more freedom and opportunity than ever before. Even America’s poor live well by world standards and by the standards of history. Yet since 1960, the divorce rate has doubled, teen suicide has tripled, violent crime has quadrupled, the prison population has quintupled, and some estimates put the incidence of depression in the year 2000 at ten times what it was in the year 1900. Americans are less happy today than they were 40 years ago, despite the fact that they make 2.5 times as much money. Myers’ book documents this paradox in eloquent and stunning detail.

How did we get into this mess? Myers pins the blame principally on rampant individualism, fed by a commercial culture that encourages materialism and a national media circus that makes the worst of human behavior look normal. (His chapter on the media is a relentless and savage critique of an industry he says has abandoned any shred of social responsibility in its pursuit of profit while hiding behind the First Amendment.) To undo the damage, Myers argues for a return to “moral education” (he dispenses with the myth of value-free education), and a rekindling of religious faith and practice. What de Tocqueville asserted after he toured the United States almost 200 years ago, Myers supports with facts: Religion is good for us.

It is hard not to be persuaded both by Myers’ description of the problems we face and by his recommendations for solutions. I know that I am. Yet I think Myers neglects the most important piece of the puzzle: He attacks materialism, but doesn’t ask why people are materialistic. Could it be because Americans have learned that they can’t count on anyone but themselves to provide things like health care and education for their families? Myers appeals to the media to do the right thing, and asks companies to adopt “family-friendly” policies. But why would they do so when their only responsibility is to improve the profits of their stockholders? It seems to me that there is a causal relationship between the policies that have made us affluent and our growing unhappiness. In our pursuit of wealth, we have removed constraints on businesses and allowed the social safety net to erode. The ideology of the free market is one of individualism, materialism and freedom from constraint, and this ideology infects everything it touches.

We must acknowledge the many ways in which the free market erodes much of what is good about our social life. The price we pay for unmitigated freedom in the market is the neglect and decay of almost all the social virtues that make life worth living. The free market may make us richer, but it costs us the intimacy, commitment, caring, fairness and loyalty that make us happy. It fills our bellies, but leaves us spiritually hungry.

Conservative social critics such as William Bennett and George Will condemn our culture for its loss of moral substance while at the same time celebrating a political system that gives a free hand to the market. The truth is that economic liberalism and cultural conservatism are inherently incompatible and self-defeating. For the sake of our future well-being and the well-being of coming generations, we can’t let them get away with this nonsense any longer. Americans would do well to read Myers’ book and use his evidence as a weapon against virtue’s deadliest enemy--the free market.

Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin R Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action


Posted by Elvis on 08/05/05 •
Section General Reading
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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On The Revitalization For Organized Labor

Here’s an insightful reply to a POST from blogger on the deeper issues facing organized labor following the recent BREAKOFF of some unions from the AFL-CIO....

After nearly two years of being “out” of the organized Labor movement and never having achieved more than “local” ranking within it, it might not seem that I am particularly well suited to comment on the deplorable state of Labor in America, recently brought into such sharp focus by the threatened break up of the AFL-CIO. I am certainly no Sweeny, Stern, or Hoffa. My perspective is only that of one of countless freeborn warriors who have carried the Union standard in equally countless front line battles “in plant” and at the local union level.

Quite frankly, I find the debate over whether Unions should spend more on political action or on more aggressive organizing completely irrelevant even as America Labor finds itself up to its neck in an economic quicksand that threatens to extinguish it completely. Effective organizing is very difficult under current legal conditions no matter how much money you have at your disposal. The law, and its lopsided enforcement, is simply stacked against us. But changing these legal conditions means we must have the numbers that only very aggressive organizing can hope to provide. Thus it is a chicken vs. egg argument, with endless possibilities for point and counter-point, but utterly useless in sustaining Labor in the international economy that has emerged. Moreover, this argument does not at all take into account what I regard as the greatest cause of Labor’s decline, the great compromise of the 1930s that gave Labor legal recognition, but forbid it from seeing to it that Union companies were effectively managed to last for generations, not mere decades. Once Taftt-Hartley came along in 1947, the writing was on the wall, over the long haul, the economic elite could simply let union shops die off by not reinvesting in them. This strategy has been brutally effective, and for many years now, in spite of all our organizing efforts, a state of affairs has existed in which we cannot even hope to keep up with our losses due to plant-closings, downsizing, outsourcing and general attrition.

In late 2003, I lost reelection to the position of president and business manager of a 1300 member, 18 bargaining unit, local union. My own plant had closed in 2002, one of three lost by the Local in this “2001” recession that seems to have no end. Thus I had no place to go and was thrown back into the merciless labor market that offers workers so few real opportunities these days, particularly for a former union activist who has a well earned repulation for being “troublesome”. I was forced into a reevaluation mode, reconsidering all the things I had believe in, and given so much of myself fighting for.

I had seen so much. I had anguished over how to even effectively enforce contracts and provide effective membership service given the severe financial constraints that had plagued my local, like so many other unions, for many years. I had watched companies buy plants to gain access to markets and then simply close the associated manufacturing centers. As Business Agent I was legally helpless when one such company found a binding loophole in the retiree health care plan, negotiated years prior with the former owner, which allowed them to simply terminate the already pathetic retiree health reimbursements had that these workers had managed to secure through collective bargaining. To this company, it was just good business, the human cost was meaningless. But to several retirees, with existing medical conditions, trying to live on $900 a month pension and pay for medicine it was a terrible and sinister act of a greedy corporation with no appreciation for human life or loyal service.

I have listened to honor-less senior executives from a company give a “20 year commitment” to moving a plant to a Total Quality system of management, in order to gain no more than a short term stock boost on Wall Street before they quietly abandoned the “program” a mere two years later, giving every worker and local labor leader who had applied themselves to making these “teams” work, a resounding slap in the face. I have watched, again helpless, as a giant international company `bought” my former employer shortly after the 2000 strike, keeping the same upper managerial team, and then preceded to close the first four plants out on strike within the next two years, including their flagship plant. It is perhaps noteworthy that all were in “right to work” states and that one of the primary issues of the strike was the company’s union busting activities, particularly in the South. Such retaliations are not suppose to happen under the protections of Federal Law to unions who find it necessary to engage in economic combat with companies, but we all know they do very frequently. It is only one of many of the transgressions against the Spirit (and often the Letter) of the law in which the corporations regularly engage. In a global economy with international corporations whose annual budgets dwarf the GNPs of small nations, it easy to for them to thumb their noses at the Labor Relations Act, particularly now that the Republican foxes are watching the hen house.

I still do not believe that Labor has completely lost the hearts of the People despite the many examples of membership apathy that may be cited by virtually any union leader. Much of this is only the pace and segmentation of modern life. In their core beliefs most workers yet believe in the principles we have so long championed. It is only that they are more realistic than the average, hard-headed, idealist that union leaders tend to be. They know that Labor is losing this fight and it saddens them deeply, but much like us, they simply don’t know what can be done about it. In the face of this reality it is hard for them to put too much faith in us.

Clearly if Labor is to reemerge as guiding force in post-industrial economic development, then new strategies and tactics will be required. The first, and perhaps the most painful, step is realizing that we cannot possibly prevail by restricting our activities to organizing, collective bargaining, contract enforcement and political action. To act solely within the confines of the Labor Relations Act is to quietly concede to the fact that this corporate friendly body of law will eventually lead to the extinction of all unions save possibly a few skill trade unions.

My deliberations on these questions, have lead me back to historic assumptions made in the day of Samuel Gompers and Eugene Debbs. The underlying cause of contemporary Labor’s current problems rests here. In the great compromise that gave unions legal recognition and companies the right to manage (or mismanage) their business in order to prevent Debb’s “Marxist” ideology from sweeping through America’s factories. At the time, at the height of the “Red” scare, it must have seemed like a reasonable concession. Only now, 70 years later, do we fully understand the cost of that compromise. It has meant that Unionized companies were free not to reinvest in updated equipment and training. It has meant that investment dollars could be put elsewhere, often in foreign or economically depressed domestic areas, where lower wages could be paid and the expectations of workers for a company were much lower. It has meant that American companies have been able to preserve their multi-layered chiefdom structures, with three times the number of managers as their Asian and European counterparts, all at tremendous economic cost. It has meant that although many companies have toyed with TQM, Six Sigma, Quality Circles and related concepts, very few if any have been able to get beyond their “control issues” to actually let these vastly improved workplace management systems flower. In short, it has meant thousands and thousands of WARN Act notices and literally millions and millions of lost union jobs.

I no longer believe that it is enough for us to win in the hearing room, at the bargaining table, the ballot box or even the picket line. If we are to again make the corporations have healthy respect for us, we must move beyond the traditional scope of organized labor. We must, probably through parallel economic organizations necessary under existing law, resolve to organize ourselves into small to medium sized, employee-owned and operated businesses that are efficient enough to threaten the corporations where they are most vulnerable, in the marketplace. Only in this arena can we have significant enough control over the long-term job security of our People to allow them to once again believe Unions offer them a better future. We must show the world, and particularly the large numbers of small investors in now in mutual funds and the like, that American Labor can organize itself into companies that can meet the challenges of this new global economy. Moreover, we can do it without the massive waste, the office politics and the generally oppressive work environment, inherent to the contemporary large corporation.

Even in Labor’s traditional activities, we must find a way to correct the mistake than Samuel Gompers made all those years ago, in spite of the legal complexities that this tragic compromise will put before us as obstacles. Without the right to demand, with all our bargaining muscle, that union companies be reinvested in, upgraded, and effectively managed in light of current and future economic conditions and trends, we have no hope of treating the hemorrhage of lost jobs that has so depleted our membership rolls for decades. Even when new facilities are organized, the corporations simply apply the same general strategy, and within a decade or two, they too are gone.

Once Labor begins to do these things, to take on the awesome responsibility of actually managing the economic endeavors which membership both contributes to and depends upon, then the average worker will again know that Organized Labor can help them organize themselves to solve their own survival and quality of life problems. It is a radical thought to be sure, but I am convinced that there is a better way of organizing our companies to compete for generations, or even centuries, in the global economy. Such an approach will be based on devoted, talented and hardworking people working to solve their own industrial and human problems in companies equally devoted to them and the needs of their families. The tremendous economic savings that can come with the elimination of all the managerial dead weight and the corporate interference in production, easily makes such “team” managed companies highly viable economically, particularly if combined with very effective, do-it-yourself, “benefit” programs that meet all basic human needs while allowing the payment of low, but almost exclusively “disposable,” wages comparable with global pay scales. By such means, western nations like America can compete in the emerging global economy without subjecting fully half their populations to the appalling conditions of poverty that will prevail if the corporations have their way.

Thus, my musings have led me to a divergent path from the mainstream Labor movement. I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to build the ecologically-minded, diversified services, company I have described in A BETTER WAY: The Cultural Adaptations of A Modern, Rural Tribe (2004). I know well that I am a man of only modest means, and as such, my chances of success are not at all great. Still, this too, is a yet another battle that must be fought in this long-term struggle to free our People from the evils of industrial economies. Therefore, I must do my best, if for no other reason than to find internal peace with my Maker.

It is certainly not that my heart is not yet with the Labor Movement. It is only that I would prefer to take one long shot at achieving something that may one day give our People hope for freedom from the dominance of the corporations, rather than fighting countless delaying battles to stave off for a little longer the inevitability of Labor’s eventual defeat at the hands of the corporate elite and their political allies.

Of course, I will always be allied to the Labor movement, at least for as long as it exists, and even afterwards, to the workers that will remain. My vote, my voice, my pen, indeed, if necessary, even my sword and life, shall remain devoted to the same general cause of elevating the quality of life of the worker. It is my sincere hope that I am wrong about organized Labor’s future. Perhaps Labor will be able to transform itself into an effective social, political and ideological, force again. But I am certain that doing so must involve radical changes in Unions and Union leaders, themselves, in order to restore the workers’ Faith and to re-inspire, and re-harness, their boundless Spirit and Imagination.

Credit: David Nichols


Posted by Elvis on 08/03/05 •
Section American Solidarity
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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Toughest Interview Questions

The 25 most difficult questions you’ll be asked on a job interview.

If you are one of those executive types unhappy at your present post and embarking on a New Year’s resolution to find a new one, here’s a helping hand. The job interview is considered to be the most critical aspect of every expedition that brings you face-to- face with the future boss. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and quickness as one does for a fencing tournament or a chess match.

This article has been excerpted from “PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of a Job and Find Another Successfully” by William J. Morin and James C. Cabrera. Copyright by Drake Beam Morin, inc. Publised by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Morin is chairman and Cabrera is president of New York-based Drake Beam Morin, nation’s major outplacement firm, which has opened offices in Philadelphia.

1. Tell me about yourself.
Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be extracareful that you don’t run off at the mouth. Keep your answer to a minute or two at most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history, and recent career experience. Emphasize this last subject. Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up question. Don’t waste your best points on it.

2. What do you know about our organization?
You should be able to discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals, problems, management style, people, history and philosophy. But don’t act as if you know everything about the place. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research, but don’t overwhelm the interviewer, and make it clear that you wish to learn more.

You might start your answer in this manner: “In my job search, I’ve investigated a number of companies.

Yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons...”

Give your answer a positive tone. Don’t say, “Well, everyone tells me that you’re in all sorts of trouble, and that’s why I’m here”, even if that is why you’re there.

3. Why do you want to work for us?
The deadliest answer you can give is “Because I like people.” What else would you like-animals?

Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the company’s needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that it’s doing them in ways that greatly interest you. For example, if the organization is known for strong management, your answer should mention that fact and show that you would like to be a part of that team. If the company places a great deal of emphasis on research and development, emphasize the fact that you want to create new things and that you know this is a place in which such activity is encouraged. If the organization stresses financial controls, your answer should mention a reverence for numbers.

If you feel that you have to concoct an answer to this question - if, for example, the company stresses research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesn’t interest you- then you probably should not be taking that interview, because you probably shouldn’t be considering a job with that organization.

Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you wouldn’t be able -or wouldn’t want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it’s difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you don’t really want.

4. What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
Here you have every right, and perhaps an obligation, to toot your own horn and be a bit egotistical. Talk about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your resume or list of career accomplishments. Say that your skills and interests, combined with this history of getting results, make you valuable. Mention your ability to set priorities, identify problems, and use your experience and energy to solve them.

5. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?
List three or four attractive factors of the job, and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.

6. Why should we hire you?
Create your answer by thinking in terms of your ability, your experience, and your energy. (See question 4.)

7. What do you look for in a job?
Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at this organization. Talk about your desire to perform and be recognized for your contributions. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal security.

8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for which you are being interviewed].
Keep your answer brief and taskoriented. Think in in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure that you really do understand what the position involves before you attempt an answer. If you are not certain. ask the interviewer; he or she may answer the question for you.

9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to meet pressing demands and pull your own weight from the first day, it might take six months to a year before you could expect to know the organization and its needs well enough to make a major contribution.

10. How long would you stay with us?
Say that you are interested in a career with the organization, but admit that you would have to continue to feel challenged to remain with any organization. Think in terms of, “As long as we both feel achievement-oriented.”

11. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. What’s Your opinion?
Emphasize your interest in establishing a long-term association with the organization, and say that you assume that if you perform well in his job, new opportunities will open up for you. Mention that a strong company needs a strong staff. Observe that experienced executives are always at a premium. Suggest that since you are so wellqualified, the employer will get a fast return on his investment. Say that a growing, energetic company can never have too much talent.

12. What is your management like?
You should know enough about the company’s style to know that your management style will complement it. Possible styles include: task oriented (I’ll enjoy problem-solving identifying what’s wrong, choosing a solution and implementing it"), results-oriented ("Every management decision I make is determined by how it will affect the bottom line"), or even paternalistic ("I’m committed to taking care of my subordinates and pointing them in the right direction").

A participative style is currently quite popular: an open-door method of managing in which you get things done by motivating people and delegating responsibility.

As you consider this question, think about whether your style will let you work hatppily and effectively within the organization.

13. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you feel that you have top managerial potential?
Keep your answer achievementand ask-oriented. Rely on examples from your career to buttress your argument. Stress your experience and your energy.

14. What do you look for when You hire people?
Think in terms of skills. initiative, and the adaptability to be able to work comfortably and effectively with others. Mention that you like to hire people who appear capable of moving up in the organization.

15. Have you ever had to fire people? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the situation?
Admit that the situation was not easy, but say that it worked out well, both for the company and, you think, for the individual. Show that, like anyone else, you don’t enjoy unpleasant tasks but that you can resolve them efficiently and -in the case of firing someone- humanel

16. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager or executive?
Mention planning, execution, and cost-control. The most difficult task is to motivate and manage employess to get something planned and completed on time and within the budget.

17. What important trends do you see in our industry?
Be prepared with two or three trends that illustrate how well you understand your industry. You might consider technological challenges or opportunities, economic conditions, or even regulatory demands as you collect your thoughts about the direction in which your business is heading.

18. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?
Be brief, to the point, and as honest as you can without hurting yourself. Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. where you considered this topic as you set your reference statements. If you were laid off in an across-the-board cutback, say so; otherwise, indicate that the move was your decision, the result of your action. Do not mention personality conflicts.

The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue, particularly if it is clear that you were terminated. The “We agreed to disagree” approach may be useful. Remember hat your references are likely to be checked, so don’t concoct a story for an interview.

19. How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new job?
Mention that you are concerned, naturally, but not panicked. You are willing to accept some risk to find the right job for yourself. Don’t suggest that security might interest you more than getting the job done successfully.

20. In your current (last) position, what features do (did) you like the most? The least?
Be careful and be positive. Describe more features that you liked than disliked. Don’t cite personality problems. If you make your last job sound terrible, an interviewer may wonder why you remained there until now.

21. What do you think of your boss?
Be as positive as you can. A potential boss is likely to wonder if you might talk about him in similar terms at some point in the future.

22. Why aren’t you earning more at your age?
Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search. Don’t be defensive.

23. What do you feel this position should pay?
Salary is a delicate topic. We suggest that you defer tying yourself to a precise figure for as long as you can do so politely. You might say, “I understand that the range for this job is between $______ and $______. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it.” You might answer the question with a question: “Perhaps you can help me on this one. Can you tell me if there is a range for similar jobs in the organization?”

If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview, you might say that you feel you need to know more about the position’s responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer to that question. Here, too, either by asking the interviewer or search executive (if one is involved), or in research done as part of your homework, you can try to find out whether there is a salary grade attached to the job. If there is, and if you can live with it, say that the range seems right to you.

If the interviewer continues to probe, you might say, “You know that I’m making $______ now. Like everyone else, I’d like to improve on that figure, but my major interest is with the job itself.” Remember that the act of taking a new job does not, in and of itself, make you worth more money.

If a search firm is involved, your contact there may be able to help with the salary question. He or she may even be able to run interference for you. If, for instance, he tells you what the position pays, and you tell him that you are earning that amount now and would Like to do a bit better, he might go back to the employer and propose that you be offered an additional 10%.

If no price range is attached to the job, and the interviewer continues to press the subject, then you will have to restpond with a number. You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter, that you’ll accept whatever is offered. If you’ve been making $80,000 a year, you can’t say that a $35,000 figure would be fine without sounding as if you’ve given up on yourself. (If you are making a radical career change, however, this kind of disparity may be more reasonable and understandable.)

Don’t sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the job itself is the most important thing in your mind. The interviewer may be trying to determine just how much you want the job. Don’t leave the impression that money is the only thing that is important to you. Link questions of salary to the work itself.

But whenever possible, say as little as you can about salary until you reach the “final” stage of the interview process. At that point, you know that the company is genuinely interested in you and that it is likely to be flexible in salary negotiations.

24. What are your long-range goals?
Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Don’t answer, “I want the job you’ve advertised.” Relate your goals to the company you are interviewing: ‘in a firm like yours, I would like to...”

25. How successful do you you’ve been so far?
Say that, all-in-all, you’re happy with the way your career has progressed so far. Given the normal ups and downs of life, you feel that you’ve done quite well and have no complaints.

Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don’t overstate your case. An answer like, “Everything’s wonderful! I can’t think of a time when things were going better! I’m overjoyed!” is likely to make an interviewer wonder whether you’re trying to fool him . . . or yourself. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence.



Posted by Elvis on 07/31/05 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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Thursday, July 28, 2005


Another way to outsource American jobs to cheap foreign labor.

CAFTA will eliminate trade barriers between the United States and five Central American countries—Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica - along with the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

Supporters had to overcome what some have called free trade fatigue, a growing sentiment that free trade deals such as the NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT with Mexico and Canada have contributed to a loss of well-paying American jobs and the soaring trade deficit.

Democrats, who were overwhelmingly against CAFTA, also argued that its labor rights provisions were weak and would result in exploitation of workers in Central America.

But supporters pointed out that CAFTA would over time eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers that impede U.S. sales to the region, correcting the current situation in which 80 percent of Central American goods enter the United States duty-free but Americans must pay heavy tariffs.


CAFTA No: U.S. Workers Cant Afford Another NAFTA
June 24, 2005
by Moira Herbst

The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) - the latest installment of free trade legislation being pushed by President Bush narrowly passed in the House and Senate Finance Committees last week and may soon be put to a formal Congressional vote. While it seems the deal lacks adequate support, it is critical that labor and its allies keep the heat on until it is defeated. What is at stake is no less than the future direction of world trade - and whether U.S. workers will continue to lose good jobs as the global sweatshop expands.

The accord, signed last year by Bush and the leaders of six mostly impoverished countries Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua - would eliminate most tariffs on the $33 billion traded annually between the U.S. and CAFTA countries. Modeled after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), CAFTA would be another step toward passage of the FTAA (Free Trade of the Americas Act), which would create a completely free trade” zone in this hemisphere. What the deals have in common is that they are designed to promote the interests of corporations and their investors, allowing them to trump the rights workers and the regulatory powers of national governments.

Another Raw Deal for U.S. Workers
As the Bush administration and its allies court Congressional votes, they echo promises made ten years ago when NAFTA was up for debate. Eliminating tariffs, they say, will mean more American exports, translating into more jobs for U.S. workers.

What Bush fails to mention are the jobs destroyed as American companies relocate to Central America to take advantage of cheaper, largely unorganized labor. A report from the ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE estimates that NAFTA alone displaced nearly 900,000 decent-paying jobs in the U.S. in industries such as aircraft, food processing, auto manufacturing, apparel and consumer electronics.

Job losses accelerated as imports from NAFTA countries outpaced exports, creating a severe trade imbalance. Since NAFTA was implemented, the United States trade deficit with Canada and Mexico has ballooned 1,200%, from $9 billion in 1993 to $111 billion in 2004.

The overall U.S. trade deficit is growing at an alarming pace, hitting $617 billion last year and potentially reaching $780 million next year. CAFTA will only add to the deficit and leave American workers to search for new jobs, often in the lower-wage service sector where most new employment is being created.

Shedding U.S. Jobs to Keep Sweatshops in Business
Despite the Bush administration’s rhetoric of spreading “development and democracy” in Central America, CAFTA is actually designed to let businesses to profit from the low wages and denial of workers rights that are routine in parts of Central America [see the AFL-CIOҒs new report The Real Record on Workers’ Rights in Central America"].

Many Central American countries lack basic labor protections like anti-discrimination laws or the right to organize, and workers regularly face exploitation, abuse and hazardous working environments. In Guatemala and El Salvador, attacks on, and even the murder of, union members are well documented.

Instead of insisting that Central American governments respect internationally recognized workers rights - basic standards outlined by the United Nations International Labor Organization - the Bush administration has negotiated provisions requiring only the enforcement of domestic labor laws. And like NAFTA, CAFTA would do nothing to see that they are actually enforced. Just last week an amendment to apply the same penalties for breaking labor laws as for violating intellectual property rights was defeated by the Senate Finance Committee.

Of course this is part of the bargain for multinational companies choosing to relocate to Central America: keeping workers fearful and unorganized keeps them quiet about poverty wages and hazardous working conditions. And cheap, acquiescent labor means bigger profits.

So, while Americans stand to lose jobs at home from CAFTA, the deal will likely bring destruction and not development to Central America. NAFTAs legacy is instructive. Over the ten years it has been in place, real wages in manufacturing in Mexico have actually fallen, and liberalization in agriculture displaced nearly a million rural small farmers. An estimated 1.3 million agricultural jobs were lost, a figure not offset by job growth in export processing sectors. CAFTA will likely push Central American workers into unemployment or into work in maquiladora-style factories.

The American labor movement has teamed up with unions and grassroots groups in Central America to voice opposition to CAFTA. Nearly all Democrats in Congress are united in their opposition, as are many textile and sugar manufacturers - including a coalition of 23 manufacturing associations representing 18,000 companies who know they wonגt be able to compete if CAFTA is passed.

But the Bush administration and its allies in big business especially agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry - are aggressively courting Congress, accusing critics of economic isolationism.

Already bearing the brunt of NAFTA and expanded trade with China, American workers will not be fooled they have learned the hard way that the דfree trade model is a failure. It fails to maintain or create good jobs at home while it tramples indigenous industries in poorer countries. Now the Bush administration is trying to secure yet another deal that destroys the chances of a secure middle-class life in America. By ensuring CAFTA’s defeat, the labor movement can show that U.S. workers will not back away from the fight.


Posted by Elvis on 07/28/05 •
Section General Reading
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Act of 2005

Here’s a note from the in Washington, DC. 

We’re holding the bad guys back!  Now we need more sponsors for the Harkin


We’ve gotten wind that there is likely going to be a cash balance amendment offered tomorrow when the Senate Committee on Finance meets to mark-up the “National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Act of 2005.” We have heard that it is going to be prospective only and will NOT be retroactive; will prohibit wearaway; and will have some kind of transition benefit.  If this is the case, you should know it’s because of you. Your letters and phone
calls have made an impact!

If you’d like to make a last minute appeal to the Senate Committee on Finance, simply send them a message in the morning or tonight that reads:

We understand that the senate Finance Committee is likely to vote on a cash
balance amendment when you mark-up the “National Employee Savings and Trust
Equity Guarantee Act of 2005.” Tens of thousands of employees have been hurt
in conversions.

Please protect our pension promises by:


· Prohibiting wearaway for normal and subsidized early retirement benefits

· Providing adequate transition benefits such as the greater of between the old and new formulas.

Posted by Elvis on 07/26/05 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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