Brett Voorhies: Who’s criticizing tariffs? Wall Street

May 11, 2018

DEBATE QAre the Trump administration’s imposed and proposed tariffs good for the U.S. economy?


Are you paying attention to who’s complaining about the new steel and aluminum tariffs? It’s Wall Street lobbyists and the politicians who are beholden to them. This global investor class only cares about their bottom line and fattening their wallets, even if it’s at our expense. The truth is, when foreign corporations undermine trade laws and cheat U.S. companies, Wall Street gets richer. They don’t care about the effect on American workers or our local communities.

As a United Steelworkers member, I’ve seen the damage of unfair trade practices first hand. In fact, I used to work for Rexnord, which laid off 300 workers in Indianapolis last year and relocated its operations to Mexico. Because of failed trade policies, decisions like Rexnord’s are far too common. Corporations are getting richer by packing up and moving overseas, while working people suffer.

Serving as president of the Indiana AFL-CIO representing 300,000 working Hoosiers, I’ve seen how those closings effect not only the workers in those shops, but entire communities across the state.

That’s why tariffs to protect U.S. national and economic security are long overdue. The labor movement has been calling attention to unfair trade deals for years, and we’ve long advocated for the use of tariffs in curbing predatory trading practices.

We believe that if we’re going to have rules that govern international trade, there should be a way to enforce those rules, and tariffs are an effective way to do that.

For too long, the only response to global companies who undermine trade policies has been strongly worded letters and speeches. Well, rhetoric hasn’t stopped China from overproducing steel, manipulating currency or denying labor rights to working people, so it’s about time we tried something new.

Strategically using tariffs is just common sense.

Tariffs are an important tool to end trade practices that kill American jobs and drive down American pay, but I want to be clear that they are only one tool as we call for a new direction in trade.

The labor movement continues to fight against rigged trade deals and call for a NAFTA renegotiation. NAFTA was written by corporations. So it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s had the same effect as other corporate-driven policies—redistributing income upwards and providing rewards to the wealthiest and most powerful while making it tougher to succeed for the rest of us. A new deal for North American working families must be a priority.

Unions are united in calling for an international trade system that works for all working people, not just the elites on Wall Street.•

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Voorhies is president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO.Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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