Working Together for
Global Economic Justice
1. Don't Let Your Kids Start the New Year
With Toxic Toys!
2. 14 Years of NAFTA
3. WARN Becomes FOREWARN: Updating a
4. Did You Know?
5. New Website
6. Next Meetings
1. Don't Let Your Kids
Start the New Year With Toxic Toys!
Current U.S. trade policy
encourages the outsourcing of our manufacturing base and
jobs. It has also reduced, and in some cases eliminated, the
inspection process of goods we import. At holiday time, the
toys we purchase for our children and grandchildren are the
most visible evidence of this lack of safety and toxicity
standards -- standards which "free-trade" proponents label
"barriers to trade." In reality, we pay a dear price for this
so-called "free trade." It is also important for the public
to know that toxic waste exported from the U.S. is the source
of much of the lead that ends up in toys manufactured in
China, AND endangers Asian factory workers, some of whom are
Throughout 2007, the Ohio
Conference on Fair Trade newsletter included articles about
toxic toys, the connection with the export of U.S. toxic
waste, and where to buy American-made toys and other
fairly-traded products. In the fall, our newsletter featured
an article about the United Steel Workers' "Get the Lead Out"
program, which advocates reducing the imports of potentially
toxic toys. The USW offers free lead testing kits for
consumers to test their kids' toys at
Last week, the consumer
watchdog organization Public Citizen released their
comprehensive report entitled "Santa's Sweatshop: Made in
D.C. with Bad Trade Policy," documenting many causes of the
imported toxic toy crisis. (See the full report at:
The report clearly outlines how our children's safety has been
compromised by trade policy that encourages the off-shoring of
U.S. manufacturing, protects corporate overseas investments at
all costs, and promotes corporate profits and obscene CEO pay
levels. The report analyzes four decades of data related to
toy manufacturing and toy recalls. "In 1970, 86% of U.S. toys
were produced domestically, employing 60,000 American workers;
average U.S. toy firm profits were $50 million; CEOs made 58
times what their production workers made; and annual recalls
never exceeded 12 per year. Today, 87% of U.S. toys are
produced overseas, toy firm profits have soared 1,750% to $930
million annually, and CEOs make 500 times what the remaining
9,000 U.S. toy production workers make and more than 21,000
times the average 36 cent hourly wages earned by Chinese
production workers, who produce 74% of U.S. toys, while
recalls have skyrocketed with 120 recalls in 2007 alone."
(See chart below for graphic representation of these
We join Public Citizen in
calling for standards that will give higher priority to the
safety and health of our children.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, long-time champion of fair
trade, early in December, introduced a 6-point plan to remove
toxic toys from our markets. His plan calls for increasing
the effectiveness of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
which now operates at half the staff that it began with in
1974. Today, nearly 80% of our toys are imported from China,
and total U.S. imports from China topped $288 billion last
year and continue to climb dramatically. We need more
effective and proactive CPSC leadership and action, not less.
Brown's plan also calls for more accountability and
responsibility on the part of distributors who are profiting
from these imports, for better product labeling, and for
increased product safety within the terms of our trade
agreements. Sen. Brown has partnered with Sen. Obama to
introduce legislation banning lead in toys.
In Ohio, we are fortunate
to have a number of U.S. Congressional Representatives who,
like Senator Brown, understand the toxic nature of our current
NAFTA-style trade agreements. These include: Congresswomen
Marcy Kaptur and Betty Sutton, and Congressmen Dennis
Kucinich, Steve LaTourette, Tim Ryan, Zack Space, and Charlie
Wilson, all of whom voted against the recent Peru Free Trade
Agreement. This Peru deal liberalizes investors' rights
without adequately protecting the environment, workers' health
and safety, farmers' livelihoods, or ensuring the safety of
products exported to the U.S.
In 2008, the Ohio Conference on Fair Trade will continue to
focus on trade policy and its effects on the citizens of our
state. We will strive to provide information to consumers
about sources for American-made and fairly-traded products.
We will continue to advocate for reformed trade policies that
promote health, safety, a sustainable environment, and
economic justice in Ohio and globally.
% of toys produced
in U.S.: 86% (0% from China)
employed making toys: 60,000
Toy firms' annual
avg. profits: $50 million
compared to U.S. workers: 58 times
(21,000 times Chinese wages)
Number of toy
recalls annually: 12
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2. 14 Years of
NAFTA by Andy
Gussert, National Director of Citizens Trade Campaign
Andy Gussert to the position of National Director of the
Citizens Trade Campaign [CTC]. Gussert's background
includes: staffer with the late Senator Paul Simon of
Illinois, director of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, and
President of the Wisconsin American Federation of Teachers.
As an affiliate of CTC, we welcome Andy's enthusiasm and
leadership in the Fair Trade arena!)
In a press release in
Washington, DC, Andy Gussert commemorated the 14th anniversary
of the signing of NAFTA with the following statements: "We
have three million fewer manufacturing jobs in this country
since the signing of NAFTA … Every day for the past 14
years, trade agreements such as NAFTA have been used to make
multinational corporations richer--at the expense of working
people--by moving jobs overseas."
Earlier this month, "…the U.S. Senate took another step in
the wrong direction by siding with President Bush and
corporate lobbyists in voting to approve the Peru trade pact.
If average American workers are going to survive into the
future, then we need leadership that is ready, willing, and
able to stand up to these special interests that promote the
modified version of NAFTA."
"Farmers are also hit
hard. The Peru FTA will cause extreme harm to Peruvian
farmers and subject them to dumping of below-cost commodities
by U.S. agribusiness companies. Under NAFTA, over one million
Mexican corn farmers were driven off the land thanks to the
dumping of cheap U.S. corn."
"Repeated polling shows that the American public, including
Democrats, Independents and Republicans, have negative
feelings about current U.S. trade policies. Fortunately, of
the seven top Democratic contenders seeking the nomination for
President, five have come out to publicly oppose the Peru FTA,
including John Edwards, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Dennis
Kucinich and Bill Richardson. These candidates are spot-on in
acknowledging that the Peru pact replicates and in fact
expands the most damaging aspects of past trade agreements."
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Becomes FOREWARN: Updating a Useful Bill
by Maria Wilkinson, President of
the OCFT Board
ACTION: Contact Sen. George Voinovich and request that he
support the FOREWARN Act (S. 1792) in the interests of workers
in Ohio and the rest of the country. Sen. Sherrod Brown
already is Co-Sponsor of the legislation.
In 1988 the WARN Act was passed by Congress. Its purpose was
to give workers a two-month notice prior to their layoff or
the closing of the company where they were employed. Not only
does such advance notice somewhat reduce the devastating shock
of losing one's job, it provides a little time to search for
a new position or look into retraining options.
Although the WARN Act should have had positive results, a
majority of employers have failed to comply with the
legislation. Legal costs and a lack of attorneys familiar
with this law have resulted in few suits filed against
non-compliant companies. Cases that have been brought largely
have been dismissed. The legislation needs to be given
Criteria determining companies and workers covered by the
legislation need to be adjusted to address realities of the
working world in 2007, especially in states like Ohio, where
unfair trade policies have contributed to devastating loss of
A comparison of some
features of the two bills:
Act of 1988:
- Gives workers 60 calendar
days notice prior to job
- Applies to employers with at least 100 employees
- Defines "mass layoff" as 50 workers but only if 50
constitute 33% of total employees
- Assesses penalties of back pay for violations of the
- US Dept of Labor has no jurisdiction to enforce WARN
WARN Act of 2007:
- Gives workers 90 calendar days notice prior to job loss
- Applies to employers with at least 50 employees
- Defines "mass layoff" as 25 employees and repeals the
- Authorizes the Dept of Labor to bring civil suits
against violators. If this does not occur within 6 months
of layoffs or closings, the Attorneys General of states
involved may take legal action
- Requires written notification of closings and layoffs be
sent to the Secretary of Labor, local stakeholders and
mayors of effected communities
Please join Sen. Sherrod
Brown in promoting passage of bills S.1792 and H.R. 3920. Get
in touch with your representatives in Washington!
Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121
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4. Did You
- ... that the
Bali conference on Climate Control included the first ever
meeting of Trade Ministers on environmental issues? While
the discussion would be disappointing to most
environmentalists, at least there is some recognition that
energy powers globalization. David Runnalls, President of
the International Institute for Sustainable Development,
told the trade group that meeting the climate change
challenge would require no less than a multi-trillion dollar
revamp of the global energy infrastructure. Added Mr.
Runnalls: "Failure to address climate change would
constitute a failure of the multilateral trading system."
- … that at the
same Bali conference, the NGO Climate Action Network
presented the Fossil of the Day Award to Saudi Arabia, the
U.S. and Canada?
- … that a
survey commissioned by the German Marshall Fund, a U.S.
think tank, found that a growing number of Americans—57%,
up from 51% in 2005—believe "free trade costs more jobs
than it creates," reported the Wall Street Journal
(Dec. 5, 2007)?
- ... that
Wal-Mart, the biggest corporation in the U.S., is now the
biggest employer in Mexico? Nearly half of the new
permanent jobs in Mexico last year came from Wal-Mart.
According to New York Times reporter Tim Weiner, Wal-Mart in
Mexico is using the same "winning" formula it uses in the
U.S.: "cut prices relentlessly, pump up productivity, pay
low wages, ban unions, give suppliers the tightest possible
profit margins." In both the U.S. and Europe, Wal-Mart has
been accused of "driving down wages, introducing cut-throat
business practices and bankrupting local companies."
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Watch for our new website
early in 2008. It is: www.OhioFairTrade.org. It will
include sources for Made-in-America and fairly-traded
products, archived newsletters, sweatshop alerts, information
about the impact of U.S. trade policy on our environment, jobs
and family farmers, and much more!
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6. Next Meetings
Our next OCFT Board
meeting will be Monday, January 28th, at 12:30 p.m. (for 1
hour) at the AFL-CIO Building at 395 E. Broad St., downtown
Columbus. Our meetings are open to everyone! Feel free to
bring your lunch!
Schedule of 2008
to be added to or removed from the OCFT mail list?
Just email Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org or OHFairTrade@yahoo.com
Karen Hansen, State Coordinator
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade
PO Box 06595
Columbus, OH 43206