AFL-CIO: Don’t let Wall Street profiteers scare you on ‘trade war’ issue


The steel and aluminum industries have been under attack by predatory trade practices. For too long, elected official have talked about the problem, but taken little action.

Now that the president has announced he plans to support U.S. producers and their employees, Wall Street, multinational corporations and the elected officials who do their bidding around the world are freaking out.


Here is what you need to know.

1. Wall Street is used to getting its way on U.S. trade and economic policy. It lobbied hard to get the United States to do nothing in the face of unfair global steel and aluminum practices. But it lost. Its frantic reaction is more like a toddler’s tantrum than a reasonable policy argument.

2. Wall Street is hoping that scare tactics, like calling ordinary enforcement of trade laws “a trade war,” will stop the president from following through on his promises. That may be good for CEOs, but not for ordinary families.

Wall Street is also ignoring the fact that ensuring that the U.S. has robust steel and aluminum industries is a national security issue. Allowing foreign companies to exploit the trade system at the expense of our security is a bad deal.

A weak manufacturing sector is a bigger threat to our national security than a few tariffs.

3. Wall Street has been doing great in recent decades, some of the stock price increases have come at the expense of America’s steel and aluminum producers and their employees. Since 2000, the United States has lost more than 25 percent of its basic oxygen furnace steel facilities.

4. Any time plants or lines shut down, workers lose jobs. Those who remain employed usually face wage and benefit cuts. Plant closures hurt small firms that provide services to the steel mills and hurt communities that rely on economic activity to fund roads, parks, libraries and other important public services.

Enforcing trade laws is necessary to leveling the playing field — and long overdue. If you can’t enforce the laws, what is the point of having them?

5. The bottom line is that trade enforcement isn’t a trade war. Wall Street is concerned about stock prices, not the welfare of America’s working families. Rather than fearing a trade war, we should be more afraid of why U.S. trade rules have been written for the benefit of global corporations in recent years.

6. America’s working families don’t want a trade war, we want a fair economy. We want to be sure that global corporations don’t write rigged rules and don’t prevent trade enforcement. We want trade rules that protect our freedoms and allows us to join together and negotiate for better, no matter what country we live in or what industry we work in.


Noted AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the tariff announcement last week:

“Wall Street’s hair is on fire over these tariffs because wealthy investors enrich themselves by closing mills and factories in the United States and moving them overseas.

“Using tariffs isn’t going to start a trade war. There’s been a war on working people for decades, and we have been getting our butts kicked. Just look at southwestern Pennsylvania if you want proof.


“Tariffs are a commonsense mechanism for trade enforcement and the best way to start fighting back. Today, there are more than 435 tariffs already in place combatting trade cheaters. This isn’t about partisan politics.

“The Labor Movement is a politically independent voice for workers who will stand up to Democratic and Republican politicians who are in the pockets of Wall Street billionaires. People may not like the way President Trump has rolled out these tariffs, but I applaud him for trying.

“The AFL-CIO has consistently made the case for the White House to use tariffs to crack down on trade law violations. Bottom line: We care about holding cheaters and bad actors accountable. We care about working people and our jobs.”

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