Join Us

Sign up for the lastest information from the IBEW!

Related ArticlesRelated Articles

Visit Our Media Department

Print This Page       Text Size:
News Publications

Cast Your Vote for Fair Trade


May 13, 2010

Container Ship

After Wall Street’s greedy antics nearly deep-sixed the global financial system, more North Americans than ever are asking what it will take to build a healthier, fairer, more sustainable economy.


Some of those questions focus on global trade. Will workers in our nations be included in an economic recovery, or will more manufacturers shut down plants, destroy good jobs and outsource their operations?

That is the plight of 400 IBEW members of Omaha, Neb., Local 1974, who will lose their jobs next year when Connectivity Solutions shuts down its communications equipment factory, a former Western Electric facility that once employed nearly 8,000 workers.

Some of the work will be sent to a lower-paying nonunion plant in North Carolina.  The rest will be sent to Reynosa, Mexico—the final blow to a proud and loyal work force. The plant and local union were featured in a September 2008 story on www.ibew.org after members quickly supplied two huge communications cabinets on extremely short notice to broadcast the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to more than 70 million Americans.


Connectivity Solutions admits to being satisfied with the productivity and quality of the Omaha plant—but executives claim they can’t stay “competitive” remaining in Nebraska. Connectivity’s parent company brags in its annual report that the firm has reduced its corporate income tax by moving operations to nations where rates are lower.

The burning question of how to keep more proud and productive workers like the members of Local 1974 from losing their jobs in a competitive, global economy is the subject of an article in the May 7 issue of The Economist magazine by Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s chief economist. The piece is part of an ongoing debate on trade on the British magazine’s Web site, accompanied by an online poll.

Lee presses the argument that trade cannot be fair if trade agreements continue to favor the needs of corporations over those of workers. Laws must keep corporations from abusing workers’ rights to decent incomes and conditions on the job. She says:

In a competitive global economy, individual corporations do what they are designed to do: maximize profits with the framework of rules they are given.  Individual corporations should not be the sole arbiters of where to draw the line on child or forced labor or respect for freedom of association, if their host country does not impose or enforce such rules.

The Economist is giving viewers the opportunity to vote online—either in favor of  fair trade—as espoused by Thea Lee and others—or for no-holds barred, forget-about-workers’-rights trade. Right now, the “forget about workers’ rights” side is winning.  Take a second and vote for fair trade.


Photo Used Under a Creative Commons License from Cargotec.