Bring the jobs home

iphone

Hooray, hooray oh happy day
Apple jobs in the USA.
The election's over
The people won
Bringing jobs back
Has just begun.
Eight hundred thousand
Or is it nine
Have left our shores
For quite some time.
Sixty thousand plants
Did disappear
Six million jobs
No longer here.
Those greedy bosses fled our land
Just to make an extra grand.

The AFL-CIO has launched a campaign to mobilize unions and other people's forces to compel Congress to enact legislation for the return of those runaway plants. These plants were sent abroad in search of maximum profits.

This 6 million job loss was a major factor in causing the 2007 recession and remains a dagger in the heart in the struggle to overcome the crisis. Bringing jobs home is not tilting at windmills, nor wishful thinking.

Making smartphones abroad that could be made here is not so smart. The same is true for a myriad of products which are now made abroad and brought here for mass consumption. The workers who could be employed here on those production lines would be making substantially more wages and thus have more to spend. This would create job upon job with ripple effect.

Workers' wages in this country have gone down steadily and their skills are being stripped away by outsourcing. At the same time, profits have soared to record levels

The latest most brazen runaway shop is the Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, Illinois. This plant is 51% owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital. The plant had 170 workers. This company reaped nearly a billion dollars a year in profits. It manufactured electronic parts for Ford and General Motors. Its move overseas is a stab in the back of the American people whose money helped save the auto industry from which Sensata now profits.

Tom Gaulrapp, a Sensata worker, said in October: "I thought that at this point in my life, after 33 years of working at the plant, that I'd be headed toward retirement. Now, I'm worried that I'll be competing with my nephew for the minimum wage jobs that are just about all that's left in town." But former AFL-CIO President George Meany had a better idea. He said: "The best anti-poverty program is a good job at union wages with union benefits." This requires outlawing runaway shops and organizing the unorganized shops. The shutdown of Sensata and of all the other runaway plants is a betrayal of the U.S. working class by U.S. capitalism.

Work has already begun on organizing a movement to reverse this runaway process and to bring back jobs that rightfully belong here. There is no need for "Buy American" isolationism in this effort. Workers around the world have no conflict with each other and are not in competition with each other. It is the capitalists, the factory owners, who compete with each other for lowest wages, most production, biggest market share and maximum profits. In fact, it is an imperative that trade unions and worker organizations of all nations speed up mutual discussion and organization with the aim of unity of program and action to stop the pitting of workers of one country against another.
For example the United Steelworkers of America has already succeeded in cooperative and mutually advantageous agreements with metal workers in Mexico, Germany, Australia and Britain.

The AFL-CIO has a tool kit for bringing jobs home which includes tools for organizing. The basic premise is: "We cannot continue to say we want to bring jobs home while rewarding corporations with taxpayers' money when they ship production, jobs and innovation overseas."

Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sponsored the Bring Jobs Home Act which would end tax breaks for companies that move jobs abroad and give tax incentives to those companies which bring jobs home. Although the bill had majority support (56-42) in the Senate, it was blocked by a Republican filibuster.

Militant action by workers whose jobs are threatened with outsourcing must become a key feature of this struggle. A good example is the recent strike of 70 International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) clerical workers in the maritime offices in California. They refused to give up their jobs. Their picket lines were respected by all West Coast longshore workers. This tied up the port. They won their strike, which has become an example for all workers to fight and protect their jobs from being outsourced and shipped abroad. The unity of the entire ILWU, the International Transport Federation and the community were the combination which made this victory possible.

Virtually every community in the country has been affected by the runaway epidemic. So every community has an interest in the fight back. For example, the City Councils of Jersey City and Bayonne, N.J. adopted resolutions unanimously which called for bringing the jobs home.

One of the main shields protecting greedy corporations who run off with our jobs is patent rights. They are used to deindustrialize the U.S. manufacturing industry. Patents are granted by law and when necessary, the patent laws can be changed to protect the public interest. Patent laws are intended to protect inventors from infringement and theft by others. They were never meant to be used to protect shipping jobs abroad.

The practices of our high tech and pharmaceutical industries in particular show how patents should be applied to protect the developers of new inventions and discoveries but the public as well.

Our country's great universities and research laboratories have produced many of these new developments. These institutions operate with large financial support from federal and state government and nonprofit foundations without which they could not function. The taxpayers of our country have a direct financial interest in the profitability of these products. Under present patent law, taxpayers pay for the research, the patent holders reap the profits.

Patents generally run for 20 years and in some cases can be extended. Thomas Jefferson, first U.S. secretary of state and in charge of the patent office, favored very short patent duration. Jefferson, himself an inventor, reasoned that new discoveries were the product of accumulated past experience and knowledge and the contemporary community in which the inventor lives. He saw inventions as primarily being for the public good and not for the creation of monopoly, as is now the case.

This is an important question today. Remember the attacks on President Obama for saying the same thing that Jefferson said, when Obama said that when we build a business, it is built on the shoulders and experience of those who came before?

Applying Jefferson's reasoning today, corporations would have to think very carefully before leaving the United States. If they do leave, they should lose their patent rights. In that case, any entrepreneur or the government or a combination of the two could manufacture those products in the U.S. Under these conditions, most of Apple's 800,000 overseas jobs would be here as would those of other monopoly corporations that run away with our jobs.

Wherever direct or indirect government money, including tax breaks, is the basis for the development of new products and technologies, we should examine how the government can move to recover its share of the money it put in.

Issuance of new patents should be done under new conditions. First, all production under these patents should be done in the U.S. for the duration of the patent. Second, the public interest must be protected: If such new products result from the use of U.S. taxpayer funds, then the public should receive an appropriate share of the profits.

These are new and changing times. They call for new and changing ideas. Patent laws are not written in stone. In fact they have changed throughout our history. They need changing now, to protect and bring back jobs.

Photo: Cheon Fong Liew // CC 2.0

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