OUR VIEW: Prioritizing American workers

By:  Editorial
The Bristol Press

“You, the American workers, are the best in the world.”

That’s U.S. Sen. John McCain speaking, during his 2008 run for the presidency.

Okay, maybe we have to take what candidates say with a grain of salt. But, according to data from the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans do come in a strong third in productivity behind only two other nations, Germany and France — not, as we’d expect, those in Asia where so many companies have, over the last two decades, exported jobs — usually seeking a cheaper workforce.

We’d like to believe that the tide is turning on that trend but we’d feel better about it if our own government was supporting the change of course.

On the plus side, General Motors announced Thursday that it is hiring back 500 workers at its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant to help build the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. The current, fifth-generation Camaro is built at a GM plant in Ontario.

But it’s disappointing that the U.S. Senate rebuffed U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s “Buy American” amendment when it approved “fast-track” trade authority for President Obama as he negotiates the Pacific Trade bill.
Murphy told this newspaper that the amendment would have ensured that the U.S. government prioritizes the purchase of American-made goods and supports the U.S. domestic manufacturing base. It would have prohibited federal agencies from waiving domestic sourcing requirements allowed through the Trade Agreements Act of 1979.

In fiscal year 2013 alone, the U.S. Department of Defense granted 1,173 waivers on items manufactured overseas, all to the detriment of American defense manufacturers. Murphy says his amendment would have closed loopholes and made it impossible for agencies to use certain waivers without considering long- and short-term effects on American businesses and employment.

“For too long, we’ve been shipping money and jobs overseas instead of investing billions of dollars in our manufacturing economy. Too many talented, hardworking manufacturers in Connecticut are out of work because the federal government isn’t doing enough to prioritize American jobs when making purchases.”
“I’m for free trade, but it needs to be fair trade,” said the senator.

We, too, support free trade — as long as it’s fair to the American worker.