February 19, 2004    Volume 11, No. 4

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Fair Trade And Jobs Groups Create A Nationwide Network


A new "Jobs and Trade Network" (JTN) is being created to bring together the growing number of grass-roots manufacturing and fair-trade coalitions that have been created in the country over the past year. Organizers are holding a kick-off event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24 to discuss ways the new action groups can cooperate and coordinate what they're doing. The idea is to make them far more effective in pressing for new trade policies "to ensure that U.S. jobs are the top priority for American policymakers," says a proposed statement of purpose.

"While those impacted by trade policy consider this an emergency situation, our elected leadership has been slow to respond," says an invitation letter sent to organizations. "It is everyone's vision that the Jobs and Trade Network will provide a process whereby groups within the network can work together more effectively on mutual issues and projects. We believe we can devise guidelines that allow each participating organization to pick and choose the JTN activities they want to be part of."

Organizations would submit activities into the network and members would decide whether to participate. "It is our belief that a network of this type can better utilize the resources we have and increase our overall impact," says the organizational letter. Initial members hope that the grass-roots groups can do a better job to "educate and energize our fellow Americans about the crisis in trade policy and to mobilize people to change those policies."

Those involved in the "fair trade" movement have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to offshore outsourcing of manufacturing and service sector jobs. "You've got folks not used to working with each other who have common threads and differences and they're trying to figure out how to bridge those differences," says Ike Gittlen an organizer of the network who works for the United Steelworkers in Pennsylvania.

Non-union companies are trying to work with unions for the first time on the issue and all those involved have different opinions on solutions, including currency reform with China, tariffs or the creation of industrial policies. "The phrase that keeps coming up when we talk about this is 'strange bedfellows,' " says Gittlen. "It's sort of an indication of how much of an emergency it is for so many people that they're willing to put aside a great deal of preconceptions they have about other people and try to make this thing work. They are listening to each other."

There are probably about 100 grass-roots groups that have been created in the country, and many of them have opened chapters elsewhere. Save American Manufacturing Now, for instance, just opened a chapter in New York. That organization has been very successful in publicizing job losses due to trade in its home state of Wisconsin, where the Democratic primary held on Feb. 17 largely revolved around those issues.

The Jobs and Trade Network expects to hold a press conference at the National Press Building on Feb. 24 after its morning meeting at the Wyndham City Center on New Hampshire Ave. Sponsoring organizations include:

  • MADe in the USA, Fred Tedesco;
  • United Steelworkers of America, Leo Gerard, Intl. President;
  • Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, Frank Johnson;
  • American Engineering Association, Bill Reed;
  • Rescue American Jobs Foundation, James Pace;
  • Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Bill George;
  • PACE International Union, Pete Strader;
  • Coalition for Trade Sanity, Ike Gittlen; and
  • Save American Manufacturing Now, Mike Retzer.

For information on the event, contact Gittlen at ikegittlen@aol.com or 717-319-4294.


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