Calls Bush’s refusal to punish China’s trade violations a betrayal of US workers

The United Steelworkers (USW) assailed President Bush’s State of the Union speech as ‘an exercise in Alice in Wonderland rhetoric.’

‘If everything’s going so great, why are millions of Americans feeling so bad?,’ asked USW President Leo W. Gerard.

‘The reason people are so stressed,’ he said, ‘is that health care costs are totally out of control, the cost of gas and heating fuels is going through the roof, and millions of family-supportive jobs - especially in manufacturing - are being wiped out because of rotten trade policy and a president who’s more willing to cater to Wall Street and the Chinese than enforce the trade laws or protect American workers.’

Gerard said his members are particularly outraged by President Bush siding with the Chinese at the expense of American workers by refusing to impose tariffs on pipe imports, despite a ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that the Chinese are dumping pipe in the US at below market prices.

‘To satisfy the Wall Street crowd that’s making a killing on outsourcing, the President blatantly betrayed American workers whose jobs are being wiped out.’

One in six (16.5%) manufacturing jobs were lost in the past five years - more than three million in all - the worst losses since the demobilization in the wake of World War II.

‘Every industry that has lost jobs - some of them well over 40% of their workers - is being devastated by massive outsourcing to countries, such as China, where workers’ rights are non existent and dirt cheap wages are commonplace.

‘Yet this administration shamelessly champions outsourcing as ‘good for America’ while it refuses to enforce the nation’s trade laws.’ When you add to these woes ‘exploding health care and energy costs being incurred by most industries,’ Gerard added, ‘you get a clear picture of why this speech is a product of an Alice in Wonderland view of the US economy.’

The USW said that the administration has added insult to injury with its drive to privatize Social Security and push for a pension bill that ‘will destroy defined benefit pensions and turn workers’ retirement security to a risky bet in a game of Wall Street craps.

‘Anybody who thinks that gambling workers’ retirement security on 401(k)s is the way to go should remember that six months before Enron wiped out thousands of workers’ life savings, Wall Street was telling people Enron was a great bet.’

Gerard said the President’s call for new initiatives on alternative energy is long overdue, but that Bush’s rhetoric is mocked by the actions of his Administration, which spent several years getting an energy bill passed in Congress that was ‘nothing short of corporate welfare’ for the oil industry.

‘This is political opportunism at its worst,’ Gerard said. ‘To believe that the president from the Oil Patch will seriously lead us toward energy independence when the energy bill he sent to Congress was literally crafted by oil industry lobbyists in the White House requires more than a leap of political faith, it requires people to believe in the Tooth Fairy.’

Energy industry lobbyists had the inside track on crafting the energy bill in White House meetings with Vice President Cheney early in the Bush Administration, which went to court to prevent records of that meeting from being made public.

‘The administration knew,’ he said, ‘that if the records of that meeting had become public, they’d never be able to conduct the kind of rhetorical charade on energy independence that was pulled off today.’

The USW is now North America’s largest industrial union, with 850,000 members. It represents workers in the steel, rubber and tire, paper, mining, and the oil and chemical industries, as well as tens of thousands of health care and service workers.