March 2011

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Imported from the U.S.A.

In a genre better known for silliness and special effects, one Super Bowl ad still generating buzz on the Internet is Chrysler's two-minute spot featuring rapper and Detroit native Eminem.

Showing the performer driving through the city—amidst a gritty background of crumbling buildings and big industrial plants—it ends with the newly profitable company's slogan, "Imported from Detroit."

Beyond being just an homage to the Motor City, the ad struck a nerve among viewers across the country who saw it as a symbol of all struggling blue-collar cities and the resolve of American manufacturing to make a comeback in these hard times.

For years, union activists have often felt like voices in the wilderness, decrying the destructive effects of outsourcing, while fighting losing battles against bad trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. We watched iconic American brands like Hoover and RCA move production to Mexico or China—taking tens of thousands of good jobs with them—while being told that we did not need to worry about making things anymore in a 21st century globalized economy.

But since the onset of the recession, it has become clear that economic growth and prosperity are dependent on the health of American manufacturing—a message that is finally getting through to the CEOs of even some of the most notorious outsourcing corporations.

Both the General Electric Co., and the Whirlpool Corp., recently decided to invest in retooling their aged production facilities here in the U.S., as opposed to sending the work to Mexico, while the number of manufacturing jobs itself is on the increase for the first time since 1997.

These are hopeful signs, but to give American manufacturing a real boost we need legislative action. We need Congress to say no to free trade deals like the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and we need to stop handing out tax breaks for companies like Philips that still insist on shutting down profitable operations in the U.S. to take advantage of cheap foreign labor.

There is no issue more deserving of bipartisan support than putting "Made in the U.S.A." labels back on our shelves—it is time for corporate America and Congress to make restoring American manufacturing a priority.


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Edwin D. Hill
International President