Trade can affect the power of workers to bargain for better wages and working conditions. In the latest reports from the U.S. International Trade Commission, the authors shared that trade and trade policy affects U.S. workers. Fortunately, Congress and the White House see this report, so they can take steps to protect workers affected by trade-related policies.
How the ITC Gathered Information
The report gleaned information from panels, roundtables, literature reviews, symposiums, and public hearings. Representatives were from manufacturing organizations to draft a statement over 250 pages long. The overwhelming results of the details about trade and how it affects workers show that underserved and underrepresented workers suffer the most.
The report’s authors shared details and examples about how trade competition hurts workers. Participants in the round table analyzed how race and ethnicity reduce the bargaining strength of workers, especially those working in domestic settings.
Combining Skills Into One Position
One problem for domestic workers comes from the way businesses choose employees and what jobs they do. Companies are putting several skills in one position to remain globally competitive. Rather than finding several people with a variety of skills, employers are looking for individuals who can do several tasks, but receive one paycheck.
Reducing Benefits to Help the Business
Companies with trade agreements are removing benefits. Organizations are telling unions that bargaining for benefits hurts the company’s ability to compete with foreign adversaries. The guilt trip prevents employees from looking out for themselves because the company asks for their assistance.
Some employees reported that unions cut hourly wages to help the business remain competitive. The company and union agreed to hold pay at the lower level for the rest of the decade.
Focusing on Abilities and Disabilities to Remove Benefits and Lower Wages
Another roundtable focused on keeping companies competitive by looking at worker abilities, age, and education. Some companies threatened their employees with offshoring to reduce the efficacy of employee bargaining. If employees refused to concede to lower wages and fewer benefits, the business promised it would move overseas.
The threat of losing their jobs forced workers, especially those with disabilities or in a minority, to concede to keep the business in the United States. To enforce the threat, the business representatives shared how a related workplace moved out of the U.S., causing all employees to lose their jobs.
Sadly, when jobs affected by trade policies go overseas, companies rarely add attractive jobs with good pay and benefits for domestic workers.
When businesses leave the country, local agencies are supposed to create programs to help displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs. Unfortunately, those programs tend to be weak, especially as they are designed to help underserved and older employees. Underserved employees often end up with low-paying jobs that require relocation.
The ITC document shows the government how its trade policies affect workers. Overall, workers seem to be taking the brunt of the policies, and the ITC wants to do more research to avoid problems like this in the future.