Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You Are Not An Auto Worker, Or...

...a garment worker, or a steelworker, and so you’re not all that worried about globalization, except for its effect on others. That’s because you’re a school teacher or a nurse, or a roofer, and so you personally feel safe – after all, your job can’t be moved overseas, and you think foreign trade is no threat to you.

Don’t be so sure. Remember: you, too, are living in the global economy. You may think you are remote from its human impact, but you aren’t. Few people are.

That’s a fact. And it’s a fact that many millions of us Americans don’t quite understand. Douglas J. McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, wants to make sure that his 520,000 union members are not among those uninformed millions. He wants carpenters, millers, piledrivers, and other workers in the building trades to know how they, too, are exposed to globalization’s repercussions.

So the Carpenters’ Brotherhood has joined with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to produce a multimedia education project in the form of a 13-minute Web presentation titled “Globalization: How Carpenters are being hurt by global trade.” For the presentation, click on the Carpenters Website:

“You can’t build an office tower in China and ship it to New York or Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean our jobs are safe,” McCarron says in the opening segment. His point is developed in detail by Jeff Faux, founder of EPI and author of The Global Class War.

Fortuitously, the same subject is treated in a recent EPI brief, “Trade, Jobs, and Wages,” by EPI staff economist L. Josh Bivens. He answers the brief’s subtitle, “Are the public’s worries about globalization justified?” with a firm Yes. His five-page paper is full of insights ignored in the current economic debate.

One is contained in these paragraphs on how job losses caused by trade deficits impact even the wages (to say nothing about working conditions) of workers in non-traded sectors:

“While job-loss caused by rising trade deficits is the most visible effect of globalization, its impact on workers is a concern to an even much larger group of workers. Even if trade flows begin to balance and there is less job loss in the future, the integration of the U.S. economy with those of its low-wage trading partners will pull down wages for many American workers, and will contribute to the ever-rising inequality of incomes in the U.S. economy.

“While global integration is usually ‘win-win’ between countries, it can still translate into steep losses for tens of millions of workers in the U.S. economy. Crucially, this wage loss is not restricted to just workers in sectors exposed to trade, but is experienced by all workers who resemble those displaced by imports in terms of education, skills, and experience…Landscapers may not get displaced by imports, but their wages do indeed suffer from job competition with import-displaced apparel workers.”

Bivens brief is a primer that should be read by national lawmakers and especially by the Presidential candidates being fed simplistic (and wrong) economic advice.

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