By Robert Martinez Jr., International President
Labor Day is a great time to celebrate the great achievements of the nation’s workforce. It is also a chance to examine many of our challenges.
Layoffs and plant closures that have continued unabated throughout recent years raise questions about some of the much-publicized promises by President Trump.
Take for example the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The new law was sold to us as a way for companies to create more jobs and increase investment in the nation’s economy.
The changes to the tax law came with much fanfare. Some corporations publicized one-time bonuses to employees and promised to invest in their workers.
Today’s reality, however, shows mounting negative impacts of the tax breaks.
Published reports recently cited an analysis by American Bridge 21st Century, which shows more than 700,000 working people have lost their jobs since Trump took office in January 2017.
Our union’s 2018 internal study of 35 large employers of IAM members concluded that the huge combined tax cuts did not lead to significant increase in investments in workforce.
Instead, we are seeing mounting offshoring of jobs once held by IAM members.
One of the more prominent examples includes Harley-Davidson, which in early 2018 announced it would be laying off hundreds of workers at its iconic Kansas City plant, moving motorcycle production to Thailand. Harley had already moved significant production to India and Brazil.
The company followed the closure announcement with news that it would give a dividend increase and a stock buyback plan valued at about $700 million.
The IAM study also concluded that the tax cuts did not lead to significant increase in investments.
Other large layoffs we have seen in recent years include heavy-duty manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., which recently slashed an estimated 285 jobs at its Joilet, Ill., plant and sent the work to Mexico.
A similar fate is playing out for workers at the Collins-United Technologies facility in Chula Vista, Calif. The longstanding aerospace plant is slashing the final 300 production jobs after shifting new product lines to Mexicali and Malaysia. Less than 80 workers will remain in a parts warehouse where thousands of production workers were integral to the commercial supply chains of Boeing, Airbus, NASA and defense programs. The plant even built Washington, DC’s first Metro rail cars.
Mexico’s aerospace industry alone employs roughly 40,000 workers at more than 300 companies.
These massive layoffs are just a snapshot of the companies that have slashed thousands of jobs in the U.S. in recent years.
The stream of layoffs could increase even more if Congress does not force the Trump administration to revise the proposed NAFTA 2.0 trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
The current proposal does not address much-needed improvements to labor standards and enforcement provisions to thwart job losses.
Signed in 1994, corporations have used provisions of the current NAFTA to outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to Mexico to pay workers less and without protections such as abilities to join a labor union.
This is more than just our union. These layoffs are impacting communities from coast to coast.
This Labor Day, let’s commit to a national manufacturing policy that puts working people ahead of corporate profits.
Robert Martinez Jr. is the international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents more than 600,000 members in the U.S. and Canadian aerospace, airline, defense, transportation, railroad and other industries.