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NAFTA and the Inner City
by Lew Moye, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
I have worked in the Auto Industry at Chrysler Corporation assembly plants in the St. Louis Area for 28 years. I am a member of the Bargaining Committee and Executive Board of UAW Local 110. I have also served as the President of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists for the past 12 years.
I live in what is often described as the inner city of St. Louis. My community is already racked with depression level unemployement, extremely high crime rate, poor housing and some of the worst health conditions in the United States.
I have worked through two Plant Closings at the Chrysler Plants over the past 12 years. During this period I have witnessed among my co-workers higher incidence of divorce, loss of homes and property, increases in alcohol and drug abuse and worst of all co-workers who have taken their own lives.
In both instances of Plant Closings at the Chrysler Plant, work has been transferred to Mexico.
Over the past 20 years I have witnessed the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs in our community with the closing of plants such as Scullin Steel, General Motors, Krey Packing, Wagner Electric, Brown Shoe, Chrysler Plant #1 and many others. If passed, NAFTA will mean more of the same.
I am not opposed to a trade agreement with Mexico. I am opposed to a so called "Free Trade" agreement which allows corporations to pit worker against worker in an effort to lower wages and increase profits.
There are a number of ways to compete in the "Global Economy," including the strategy which allows a country's people to flourish while its economy grows. This strategy stresses raising living standards in an economy by focusing on high wage, high skill, better education and high productivity jobs.
All economic indicators point to more job loss in the manufacturing and industrial sector of the US with the passage of NAFTA. This will mean more crime, an increase in poverty and poorer health in my community.
NAFTA simply eliminates a wide variety of barriers to the free flow of trade and people among the US, Canada, and Mexico. It does nothing to ensure growth in the standards of living of the people of the three countries. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 290,000 to 500,000 jobs in the US will be jeopardized as a result of NAFTA. NAFTA will put downward pressure on the wages of seventy percent of American workeróby as much as $1000 per year.