Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trumka at Netroots Nation: New Industrial Policy for a Globalized World

After laying out a five part plan to rebuild our middle class by rebuilding America's manufacturing capacity, Trumka concluded with a passionate call for coordinated action between labor and the broader progressive activist community.

We knew this wasn't going to be easy. It's going to take a concerted effort by a lot of us over a long period of time to fix our broken economy. I'm up for it, and I look forward to fighting with you.

In solidarity,
Marc Laitin
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

P.S. Read more here.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka laid out a 21st century U.S. economic policy at today’s lunchtime keynote session at Netroots Nation before a diverse crowd of 2,000 progressive political activists. Restoring the nation’s middle class in part means returning to a “real economy”—one in which we make things, rather than move around complex financial products, Trumka said. Strengthening U.S. manufacturing must be part of the process to reverse five decades of stagnating wages.

We have to think big and we have to go big. We have to let go of this notion that we can’t compete in this world. We can compete. Other countries are already doing this and so can we. We can’t get left behind.

Speaking as part of a panel on Building a Progressive Economic Vision, Trumka outlined the need for the the nation to invest in infrastructure, implement fair trade policies, change our tax policies, enact comprehensive immigration reform and reform our broken labor laws. The full panel included consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, progressive Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, Center for Community Change Executive Director Deepak Bhargava, Green for All’s Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and National People’s Action Executive Director George Goehl. (Watch it here.)

Trumka pointed out how the United States is falling behind other countries in creating green technology. While our nation is building 500 miles of high-speed rail, China has begun construction of 5,000 miles and is outspending the United States 2:1 on green technology, making it even far urgent for the United States to invest in green jobs and high-end manufacturing infrastructure now before we fall further behind.

For those who say we can’t afford to make these investments, Trumka explained how we can do it with a financial speculation tax that encourages capital to invest in concrete things and discourages unproductive speculation or paper pushing for a quick buck, all the while raising more than $100 billion. Trumka made it clear that lawmakers must not reduce the federal deficit at the expense of creating jobs.

Next up, Trumka described the need for anintegrated trade policy. The nation can’t focus solely on increasing exports, we need to focus on net exports. We can’t open our markets to other countries who won’t open theirs. We can’t support countries that murder trade unionists. All we want is to compete on a level playing field and to do that we must have fair trade policy.

Third, Trumka laid out what we must do to modify our tax policy:

We need a tax policy that encourages people to produce and manufacture things in this country, not reward those who outsource and produce things abroad. We have to close the loopholes that allow corporations who have record profits to use gimmicks to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Fourth, Trumka loudly and proudly spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and made it clear that every AFL-CIO union has endorsed our five-point plan for immigration reform. Current U.S. immigration policy has allowed corporations to create a permanent underclass of workers who they can take advantage of.

And finally, just as corporations have taken advantage of immigrants, they have skirted, exploited and violated labor laws that empower workers to form a union and bargain for a better life. The good jobs of the past were good jobs because workers organized and fought for fair wages and benefits. Without labor law reform, corporations will continue to take advantage of workers and no matter how much we invest in our economy, how much we increase our productivity, our wages will remain stagnant and we will continue to fall behind.

After laying out this five-part plan, Trumka concluded with a passionate call for coordinated action.

We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It’s going to take a concerted effort by a lot of us over a long period of time to fix our broken economy. I’m up for it, and I look forward to fighting with you.

Check out live tweets on Trumka’s discussion and the entire Building a Progressive Economic Vision presentation with the hashtag #nn10.

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