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PACIFIC RIM BAILOUT SEEN AS OPPORTUNITY FOR UNION GOALS

U.S. taxpayers who are underwriting the bailout of Pacific Rim economies should get access for U.S. goods to those markets in return, said George Becker, president of the 750,000-member United Steelworkers of America during a talk here Friday night.

"You're paying for the bailout . . . so they can come back in and take what amounts to our jobs," Becker said.

The remarks came here at the opening of the New York State AFL-CIO Industrial Division Conference, which runs through Sunday.

Becker, chairman of the AFL-CIO's economic committee, called the International Monetary Fund loan package to South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia necessary to prevent a global economic collapse.

But conditions on the bailout loans require the Pacific Rim countries to maintain low currencies, which will send their products flooding U.S. markets while halting their imports from American factories, Becker said.

Economists have projected 1.1 million U.S. jobs will be lost to East Asian imports, 70 per cent of them in industrial plants.

"Our jobs are on the line," Becker said.

The U.S., which directly and indirectly provides up to 40 percent of IMF funds, should attach conditions providing for freedom to organize labor unions in the Pacific Rim countries, while requiring them to take steps to foster a domestic consumer market.

"We believe this is an opportunity to push standard labor goals," Becker said. "What's wrong in these countries is, what they produce is not for them."

The AFL-CIO conference will address organized labor's strategies for preserving the industrial job base of the state and its legislative agenda for 1998. About 200 union representatives and rank-and-file members from around the state are attending the conference.

Among labor's objectives is to promote job creation by responsible employers who provide benefits such as health care, said Denis Hughes, executive assistant to Ed Cleary, president of the state AFL- CIO.

"Right now we're in a race to the bottom with other states," offering tax cuts to prospective employers, Hughes said. "We're putting legitimate employers at a disadvantage."

Among labor's legislative proposals are tax credits for companies that provide worker health care, and a bar on state and municipal contracts for companies that don't. By providing tax breaks and incentives to new companies, current state job creation policy harms existing employers by lower the cost structure of their competitors, he said.

Also taking part in the conference were William J. Pienta, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers; Josephine Bongiovanni of Local 15071; John Dimitroff, Bethlehem Steel safety coordinator, and Tom Conway, Local 2602 president.