Think US Manufacturing Is In Trouble Now? Wait Till WALMART Jumps In

photo of 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Photo by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Hey, Richard Trumka! You didn’t need to be so darn diplomatic yesterday. My take: Wal-Mart getting into in US manufacturing is pretty much the LAST thing America’s economy needs right now.

Unless, of course, somebody’s had an attack of conscience and they’ve completely changed their business model.

Really quick, let’s look at Walmart’s business model:

The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year.

Yep, it’s that old ratcheting-down thing. Works the same way as chained-CPI for Social Security benefits. Or, what’s been happening to the middle-class for the last 40 years. Death by a thousand cuts (also known as “creeping normality”). They take a little bit this year, and a little bit more next year, and a little bit more the year after that.  Wal-Mart’s business model:

Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism. …The Wal-Mart squeeze means vendors have to be as relentless and as microscopic as Wal-Mart is at managing their own costs. …Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences.

Why would anybody in their right mind want to apply this business model to US manufacturing? (Other than, of course, the Walton family. But maybe having a bigger fortune than the bottom 42% of Americans, combined, isn’t enough for some people…?)

Isn’t it time to start ratcheting things UP again?

Mr. Trumka, please… save the diplomacy for elsewhere. We gotta stop this Race to the Bottom.

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made in prison labelAnd, oh yeah… something else about “Made in the USA.”

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a lot of prisons here in the US. And inmates work for really cheap wages.

That USA-grown organic produce sold at Walmart? Yep.

Stuff that gets returned to Walmart? Yep.

And that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to ALEC pushing “prison industries enhancement” laws for the past 20 years, there’s now lots and lots of stuff “Made in the USA” behind prison bars. And no way to tell how much of it ends up for sale on retail store shelves. Apparently, in some states, it’s legal to sell prison-made stuff in local stores… as long as it’s not transported across state lines.

Myself, I’m thinking it’s about time for another nationwide product-labeling campaign. So consumers will know exactly where in the USA these products are made.

H/T to the Teamsters for the really great graphic above… and to Dennis Trainor, Jr. and Acronym TV for the video below.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit

In response to Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, which convenes today in Denver, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“It’s about time Walmart figured out that America’s workers are the most qualified and the best skilled at getting the job done. For decades, Walmart has led the charge on outsourcing and a global race to the bottom.

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.”

Richard Trumka on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

Today’s reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have good news for all Americans: Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits.  Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.

The Trustees’ reported improvements for Medicare are a positive development for anyone who pays for health care, because they are driven by expected slower growth in health spending in the short run. This reminds us that we have a health care cost problem, not a Medicare problem.  Strengthening Medicare for the long run means bringing health care cost growth under control throughout our economy.

America’s most important retirement program will remain strong for many more years to come, unchanged from last year’s report.  It has become increasingly clear, however, that strengthening Social Security for the future must include improvements in benefits.  Social Security remains the sole retirement income plan that is broadly available and that Americans can count on to provide secure lifetime benefits.

The Social Security Trustees reported once again that the Disability Trust Fund can pay full benefits until 2016, with enough revenue after that time to cover about 80 percent of promised benefits.  Congress should act soon to ensure disabled workers and their families will continue to receive the benefits they have earned.  This can be done by allocating a larger share of current payroll tax contributions to the Disability program, as has been done many times before.  Congress should reject calls to misuse this opportunity to undermine the sole source of disability income protection that is working well for America’s families.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The 5th Anniversary of Last Minimum Wage Increase

Today is a reminder of what is possible with just an ounce of political will.  If our leaders have the courage, they can lift millions of hardworking Americans out of poverty by raising the minimum wage. It’s a tragedy that workers have been trapped in a poverty-level minimum wage for five years. It must not go a day longer.

We are working harder than ever, while our wages are flat or falling. Over the past five years, the cost of living has continued to increase across the country, while the federal minimum wage has stayed flat. Raising the minimum wage is a critical and simple way to address a crucial underlying weakness in our economy. It will create jobs, grow our economy and increase the purchasing power of millions of workers.

The movement to raise wages is happening all around us. States are doing it. Cities, counties and little towns are doing it. Smart business owners are doing it. It’s time for Congress to get it done.

AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Harris v. Quinn an assault on wages, middle class

June 30, 2014

Richard_TrumkaThe extreme views of today’s Supreme Court aimed at home care workers aren’t just bad for unions – they’re bad for all workers and the middle class. But the attacks on the freedom of workers to come together are nothing new. They are part of an onslaught from anti-worker organizations hostile to raising wages or improving benefits for millions of people.  These attacks are a direct cause of an economy in which middle class families can’t get a break because their wages have stagnated and their incomes have declined.

Home care is one of the fastest growing industries. Its workers do backbreaking, thankless work, often for low wages. By forming a union these workers are helping to combat income inequality and the rise of low wage jobs, ensuring that these are good jobs with good benefits.

Make no mistake: the fate of workers cannot and will not be decided by one Supreme Court decision. The Court upheld the right of public employees to have strong unions and workers will vigorously build on that foundation.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Trumka on Turkish Mining Disaster

Today’s news that more than 200 coal miners in Turkey have lost their lives on the job and an untold number are still trapped in the mine is a tragedy.  The thoughts and prayers of millions of workers go out to their families and communities.

This disaster also is a stark reminder of the danger workers face every day around the world due to corporate negligence and the failure of governments to protect their citizens.

As a third-generation coal miner, I understand the risks involved in earning a living and providing for your family through such dangerous work. While there will always be risks involved in mining, and many other professions, there are steps we can and should take to ensure that no worker has to choose between a day’s pay and their life.

We await more details about the nature and cause of this tragedy.  Our concerns are grounded in reams of evidence which show that the reach of corporate irresponsibility and government incapacity knows no borders. Our own annual Death on the Jobreport, released just last week, shows too many dying on the job in the United States, including two coal miners in West Virginia only days ago. We must dedicate our efforts to ensuring every workplace is safe.  Those who lost their lives today, and the thousands more we have lost in the last year serve as a reminder of the challenge ahead to ensure that every worker can live without fear of workplace injury or death.

In 2012, the most recent year with available data, 4,628 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions. America still has much work to do to protect its own workers.

AFL-CIO Calls For An End To Deportations, Projects Stories Of Deported Workers On AFL-CIO Building Wall

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

Display highlighted deportation crisis’ impact on immigrant workers

(Washington, DC) Last nightthe AFL-CIO and its pro-immigrant allies highlighted the cost of the deportation crisis by way of a 90 by 60 foot projection of a video onto its downtown headquarters.  The event highlighted many speakers from inside the labor movement.   Workers from every trade coming together to call for an end to deportations, calling for Speaker Boehner to bring the Senate passed immigration reform bill up for a vote.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka summed it up perfectly when he tweeted, “Why is the labor movement all in to stop deportations? Because deportations hurt workers, families and America

Tefere Gebre an Executive Vice President with the AFL-CIO stated,”No father or mother should leave their house in the morning and worry they won’t see their children again.” He continued in his speech (which is in the video just below) that “This is a moral issue.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler stated, “We can’t stand by and let one more child be torn away from their parents!”  Shuler called on everyone to come together to make his happen.

Others called on the President to use his power to stop the deportations now.  People on stage were joined by people in the crowd “SÍ SE PUEDE” which loosely translates to Yes We Can.

The video, featuring the stories and names of deported immigrant workers, will be projected onto the AFL-CIO again tonight, May 1st, as well as tomorrow, May 2nd, from 8:30pm to 11:30.

However, if you are not in the Washington D.C. area, you can see the video here.

Everyday over one-thousand hard working aspiring Americans are being deported while Congress sits in gridlock.  These people are being torn away from their families, their friends, their neighbors, and their homes.  Many of these immigrants have been waiting for over a decade to be given the chance to become Americans.

President Obama has the power to stop this, and he should use it.  If Congress will not get off their butts and do something about these deportations, the President should.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Trumka on “Workers Memorial Day”

Workers Memorial Day brings us together to remember the ultimate sacrifices working people make to achieve the American Dream. No worker should die on the job. Every one of the 150 working men and women who die every day from injury or occupational disease serve as a constant reminder of the dangers too many face at the workplace.

I saw those dangers myself as a third-generation coal miner, and I know the heartache that ripples through entire communities when one of our own dies.

As we keep those who have died in our thoughts and prayers, we should rededicate ourselves to holding companies accountable for putting profits over people, and we must demand stronger safety standards in the workplace.

Much has been done over the years to improve worker safety, but until every worker, from the farm to the factory, is guaranteed the peace of mind of a safe workplace, our job will never truly be done.