Message from the President: Who Benefits from ‘Free Trade’?

by Louis Mark Carotenuto, President of UFCW Local 2013

The real cost of so-called “free trade” is devastating to America.

The people in Washington we elect to watch out for our interest—the interest of workers and the public—keep negotiating and implementing “free trade” agreements that are anything but free.

These agreements do nothing but harm the hard-working American workforce and help only the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans—along with big business.

The latest proposed trade deal is known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Like NAFTA, agreements like this have hurt the U.S. economy and the American worker.

Washington politicians argue that “free trade” lowers consumer prices on imported goods. They claim those cheaper prices exceed the loss in wages that occur when people lose their jobs as big business moves work around the globe.

Therefore, they argue “free trade” is a good deal for everyone. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the early 1970s, the U.S. trade deficit was almost nonexistent. In 2012 it had grown to almost $540 billion. The reality is that millions of lost jobs have resulted from this trade imbalance.

The analysis of the supposed benefit of trade deals is all wrong. It is based on the assumption of full employment. The analysis assumes that when workers lose jobs from trade, they can find new jobs where they make just as much.

The reality is the economy is never at full employment. The loss in wages is not temporary. The only new jobs to find are low-wage, part-time jobs in retail and service industries. Jobs with less than 40 hours per week available.

If “free trade” is so good, shouldn’t the U.S. economy be better off today than it was 10 years ago? Is there anyone who really believes this?

The problem continues to be that while we open up markets in the U.S, other countries do not open markets or do so with restrictions that hurt our ability to enjoy the same gains. It’s completely imbalanced and only big business benefits.

Trade agreements do not level the playing field, they continue only to bring our economy down. The average American has not seen much in the way of income gains over the last 40 years.

Because of poor decisions by our elected officials, we have trade policies pushed by big business. The policies they want only help them move good-paying jobs out of the U.S.

We’re being driven to low-wage jobs, with less than full-time hours, with little to no benefits. Jobs that are unable to support the average American family.

We’re being driven to a workforce of multiple workers at multiple jobs, in the same family unit.

America needs to wake up and wake up fast. America needs to remember that organized labor can change this story, before it’s too late and there are no sustainable jobs left in this country.

Take action against unfair trade deals today: Text TPP to 877877 to get connected to your legislators and let them know that you won’t stand for more trade agreements that sell out working people.