Davis, others concerned with status of U.S. workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

The Black Belt is no stranger to a need for workers rights in the United States. Each day more and more U.S. jobs are lost to foreign countries. Many times the jobs are cut from locations in the United States that could make a huge difference in places like rural Alabama where employment is not always easy to find.

Currently, the areas representatives at the highest level are doing their part to lessen this threat. U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, and other leaders have banded together to form the New Democrat Coalition and recently announced their opposition to the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade agreement in a letter sent to George W. Bush.

Davis noted a reluctance to develop a trade policy through bi-partisan consensus building and budget priorities that undermine efforts to prepare U.S. workers for competition in the growing global economy as the primary concerns of the group.

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“Our trade policies should elevate standards of living around the world and affirm our commitment to core American value such as the right t organize and the protection of women and children,” Davis said. “CAFTA fails to meet this standard and will only ratify the low-wage, anti-union environment in Central America. CAFTA would only encourage American producers and manufacturers to engage in another race at the bottom at the expense of American and Central American workers.”

In their letter to the president the group said they supported trade as a long-term strategy for growth in the economy, but also felt American workers should come first.

“We believe it is critically important to build a national consensus-one that does not currently exist-around the importance of trade,” the letter said. “Such a consensus requires that trade agreements be balanced and fair for American workers and companies as well as for the nations with which we seek to engage. It also requires that domestic policies be put in place to assist Americans in transitioning the global economy.”

The Coalition noted several reasons for their opposition of CAFTA. They felt the labor provisions in the DR-CAFTA were inadequate and constituted a step backwards in workers rights.

Second, they claimed the fiscal choices made during the existing administration had undermined the country’s ability’s to invest in domestic programs like education, skills training and research and development.

The letter appealed to President Bush that if we are to build a consensus on trade in the U.S. we must address some of the effects of trade on the American workforce and on our ability to compete in the global marketplace.

The coalition felt trade agreements should be a tool for helping lift workers abroad and out of poverty, provide them the opportunity they so desperately need and eventually move them into a larger global middle class.

Trade, the coalition said, should be used to prevent the creation of a permanent underclass of workers who have no hope of a better life and who simply provide a pool of inexpensive labor.