Labor Voices: Debbie Stabenow pushes to bring jobs home
Speak with any elected official, and inevitably he or she will stress the need to create more U.S. jobs. But given the opportunity to do so just before Congress went on its annual August recess, Senate Republicans decided they would rather do nothing instead.
Legislation sponsored by Michigan’s own Sen. Debbie Stabenow that would have provided tax credits for American companies to bring home jobs from overseas while ending tax credits for those who ship employment abroad was sandbagged by the GOP.
In a preliminary vote taken on the Bring Jobs Home Act, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill, voting 93-7 in favor of the measure. One week later, however, it all changed. The legislation, needing 60 votes to allow a final vote, fell six short. Only one Republican senator voted to allow it to move forward.
So why the change of heart? In a word, politics. GOP lawmakers heard from their big business buddies in the interim, who urged them not to approve the bill. Given the choice to side with corporate America or their constituents back home, they chose the money men who fill their campaign coffers.
This, despite the fact that, as Sen. Stabenow noted, there are more than 737,000 jobs in Michigan and 21.5 million nationwide that are at risk to being moved abroad. She was rightfully indignant about the vote, saying, “It’s outrageous that, right now, American workers are paying through the tax code to ship their own jobs overseas.”
The bill’s defeat was disheartening, to say the least, for the millions of workers who are unemployed or underemployed and struggling to pay their bills. Increasingly, hard-working Americans are being besieged by efforts to offshore more and more good-paying jobs that would allow them to provide for their families.
At the heart of the struggle are bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The 12-nation Pacific Rim agreement currently being secretly negotiated pits corporate gain against worker pain. And as things stand now, it looks like it’s going to be an unpleasant experience for employees. That is, unless we demand more from elected lawmakers.
It begins by getting them to support the “Buy American” program, which gives U.S. companies an advantage when it comes to bidding on federal contracts. As I talked about last month, the program has been in place since 1933, but other TPP nations want to end it as part of the trade pact.
Beyond that, however, there is plenty more to be concerned about when it comes to the TPP. Americans won’t be able to compete with workers in Vietnam, for instance, who get paid as little as $79 a month. Then there are the poor working conditions the trade deal would allow. And the unsafe food and products it would allow into Michigan and the U.S. You get the picture.
Workers need all the advocates they can muster. Gov. Rick Snyder, who favors the TPP, is not doing his constituents any favors. Neither is any other lawmaker who takes a similar stand.
We’ve seen elected officials change tax law to help corporations. Why not do the same to help workers? After all, they are supposed to be the ones being served.
James P. Hoffa is general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.