Black Workers Lose Good Jobs To Free Trade

William Lucy, Cleveland.com We worked our way up. The bustling factories of Cleveland not only produced quality American goods, but good jobs that created a black middle class. These were jobs that workers fought to organize and unionize. Because of their struggle, they attained living wages and benefits so that the workers who followed would be able to provide a decent living for their families. Now, merely decades later, the Great Recession and continuing jobs crisis have pulled many working families back into the struggle against poverty. Unemployment is an epidemic in the black community. At 9.2 percent, the national unemployment rate is already too high, but when you focus in on black workers, joblessness jumps up to 16.2 percent nationwide. Focus the lens even tighter on the cities hit the hardest by the recession, and you will find unemployment numbers almost reaching Great Depression-era heights: 18 percent in Cleveland, 19 percent in Charlotte, 25 percent in Detroit, 22 percent in Milwaukee. And it's not a coincidence that many of the areas with high unemployment among blacks are areas where there was once a thriving manufacturing industry. There are some politicians who would have us believe that the proposed free trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama will heal the jobs crisis and restore the manufacturing jobs lost. Either those politicians have historical amnesia, or they have not been to Cleveland to see what we've seen. Since the North American Free Trade Act was signed in 1994, more than 682,900 jobs in America have been displaced to Mexico. The bulk were in manufacturing, the very jobs that helped to create a black middle class. The South Korean FTA is estimated to cost the United States another 159,000 jobs. During a time when so many are struggling to find jobs or straining to hold onto the jobs that they have, how could anyone think that more free trade agreements are what our communities need? Maybe they can't see the effects of an auto factory or textile factory shutting down. Maybe they can't fathom the devastation that happens when a company relocates an entire electronics assembly line to another country. Maybe they don't understand that for all the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, those are communities devastated, workers who can't provide for their families, an entire segment of the population struggling to maintain the economic gains they've made. It's the only reason I can think of for the complete disconnect between what matters to the politicians in Washington and what matters to the people at home. We watch as our top elected officials gathered in meeting after meeting, hammering out deal after deal in a great political drama that plays well to network news cameras. Supposedly by continuously debating the debt ceiling and pushing through free trade, politicians will solve the issues they think matter the most. But if any of those elected leaders had walked into our communities to ask what was most important to the recently laid-off woman who's worried about losing her home, to the unemployed man whose lost manufacturing job provided for his family, to the student who needs a summer job in order to continue to afford her education, they would find that the most pressing thing on their minds isn't the debt ceiling or free trade agreements. They would find that the one thing that matters the most to us is simple: good jobs. Read original post here.