Teamsters Local 237

The American president’s first job is to preserve the middle class and the good, honest jobs it needs to survive and thrive

altFortunately, some candidates understand the importance of protecting the American worker. Although I do not agree with all of his positions, Donald Trump is right about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP), which will govern 40 percent of U.S. trade. He called it “a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers” and “a huge set of hand-outs for a few insiders that don’t even care about our great, great America.” The deal would abolish current measures protecting middle-class workers from cheap Asian labor. The Center for Economic Policy Research found that the TPP will reduce incomes for 90 percent of Americans, while the wealthiest 10 percent will see their fortunes grow.

This deal could prove disastrous to certain industries, just like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cost thousands of American auto workers their jobs. To repair some of the damage caused by NAFTA, Trump proposed a 35 percent tax on every automobile and automobile part manufactured in Mexico by American companies. These are the kind of protections we need from nations whose labor abuses allow them to undercut skilled U.S. workers. According to Politico, “Trump aligns with their [labor’s] opposition to trade deals and cutting Social Security and Medicare.” Trump has supported the implementation of a wealth tax to fund Social Security.

Electing a candidate like Scott Walker would have disastrous implications for middle-class jobs. Walker’s attempt to deny public employees the right to collective bargaining resulted in widespread protests in Wisconsin and, in 2012, a recall election that sought to replace him. Since Walker took office, Wisconsin’s public-sector union membership fell over 15 percent, greater than five points more than the state that saw the next largest decrease. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka responded to Walker’s actions with a press release that read, “Scott Walker is a national disgrace.”

As president of Teamsters Local 237, I represent more than 24,000 public employees. Our members respond to life-threatening emergencies, provide services for the elderly, the disabled and school children, as well as maintain the public housing system in addition to performing countless other essential tasks. Scott Walker clearly does not understand that public employees are essential to providing important services to those in need and keeping the economy running.

I am also troubled by the increase of outsourcing, which to China alone, cost the U.S. 3.2 million jobs from 2001 to 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute. It should be noted that countries to which corporations outsource do not offer workers the same kind of protections the United States does. These nations are hundreds of years behind the U.S. and Europe in terms of labor rights. Jobs being created overseas are often poorly-compensated and dangerous. Poor people in developing countries are not the beneficiaries of outsourcing. They are working in unsafe conditions for less than a living wage.

Outsourcing does not only affect American workers who lose their jobs, it affects our entire economy. Manufacturing is hit the hardest. Employment in that sector collapsed from a peak of almost 20 million workers in 1979 to just 12 million today. From 1998 to 2008, more than 51,000 American factories closed down. This trend portends that even more good American jobs could be lost to outsourcing. Manufacturing supports almost 18 million jobs in other sectors of the economy too. Teamsters depend on a healthy economy with a robust manufacturing sector. Factories create jobs for teamsters, who transport raw materials to plants and bring manufactured goods to retailers. If corporations continue to send work overseas, more and more middle-class jobs will be lost.

The middle class is the foundation of the American economy, but it is struggling. I fear that further outsourcing will cripple the middle class and destabilize the economy. The president’s first job is to preserve the middle class and the good, honest jobs it needs to survive and thrive. That is why, the upcoming election is vital to the future of the American middle class.

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Oral History Project

Hercules Cornish: Caretaker J Stores Man

Herclules CornishHercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.

Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.

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