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Working Together for
 Global Economic Justice

 
          
    December News:                                                                                                        
  
1.    Don't Let Your Kids Start the New Year With Toxic Toys!
   2.   14 Years of NAFTA
   3.   WARN Becomes FOREWARN:  Updating a Useful Bill
   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 children!

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 www.protect-our-kids.org or www.stoptoxicimports.org.

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:  http://www.citizen.org/documents/Santas%20Sweatshop.pdf).  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 figures.) 

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. 

 

                                 

                                                                                       1970                          __                2006

% of toys produced in U.S.:                               86% (0% from China)                13 %

U.S. workers employed making toys:             60,000                                           9000

Toy firms' annual avg. profits:                         $50 million                                  $930 million

CEO Incomes compared to U.S. workers:     58 times                                       500 times
                                                                                                                               (21,000 times Chinese wages)

Number of toy recalls annually:                       12                                                  120                                                                 


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2. 14 Years of NAFTA by Andy Gussert, National Director of Citizens Trade Campaign
(OCFT welcomes 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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3. WARN Becomes FOREWARN:  Updating a Useful Bill by Maria Wilkinson, President of the OCFT Board

OCFT 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.

Here's why:
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 stronger teeth.

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 jobs.

A comparison of some features of the two bills:        
      
          WARN Act of 1988:

  • Gives workers 60 calendar days notice prior to job loss
  • 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 Act                                                          
  • 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 33% rule
  • 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 Know….?

  •      ... 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."   (http://www.thestar.com/article/282004 )
  •      … 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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5.  New Website
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 meetings:   

  • February 25
  • March 24
  • April 28
  • May 19
  • June 23
  • July 28
  • August 25
  • September 22
  • October 27
  • November 24

 
 

 

Want to be added to or removed from the OCFT mail list?
Just email Karen at khansen@695online.com or OHFairTrade@yahoo.com .
Karen Hansen, State Coordinator
(614) 280-3631
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade
PO Box 06595
Columbus, OH  43206