Column: New NAFTA not good for Iowa

Column: New NAFTA not good for Iowa


My name is Bob Morrison. I spent the last 30 years of my life being well paid to build steam turbines at the Siemens plant in Burlington. It was meaningful work that gave me a very good quality of life.

Siemens promised they were not going to close the factory's doors when they bought it in 2014. When Donald Trump launched his campaign the next year, he promised that no more good-paying American jobs would be shipped overseas if he was elected.

I believed them. They lied to me.

Just before Christmas last year, I lost my job when Siemens outsourced our work to pay sweatshop wages to workers overseas who face repression when they try to organize unions.

Like millions of U.S. manufacturing workers who lose jobs to race-to-the-bottom trade policies, the other jobs available to me pay much less.

This evisceration of our middle class is not inevitable.

Siemens is one of many federal contractors who receive U.S. government contracts but contrary to Trump’s campaign promises are not being required to stop job outsourcing or carry out those contracts with U.S. workers. Indeed, despite Trump’s talk, when he renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he left in place NAFTA’s ban on the Buy American procurement rules in place since the Roosevelt administration.

How did that happen? For far too long, companies like Siemens have had a seat at the trade negotiating table, while folks like us have been kept out of the room entirely.

Not only did the company have no remorse for taking my livelihood away while taking advantage of workers abroad, Trump rewarded them for it. Since taking office, Trump has given Siemens nearly $550 million in new federal contracts.

Meanwhile, Trump’s renegotiated NAFTA deal would not stop job outsourcing. Its labor and environmental standards and their enforcement are too weak to make a difference, but Trump allowed Big Pharma to rig the new NAFTA to lock in the policies that help make life-saving drugs unaffordable.

That’s why so many regular people like me have been demanding that Congress do more to force Trump to remove the pharma sops and fix the labor standards to fight job outsourcing. We simply cannot keep allowing unfair, corporate-written trade policies to become the law of the land.

During the entire year since Trump announced his revised NAFTA, he has refused to make these changes that unions, Democrats in Congress and consumer groups have demanded.

And now he’s trying to blame Congress for not having a vote because they won’t approve a deal that locks in high drug prices and won’t stop NAFTA job outsourcing.

But he’s right that NAFTA has been unfair. We need to get rid of such trade deals, and we need to re-write the rules to benefit working people.

Like many of you, I’m angry. And I get even more angry watching politicians take advantage of our anger for their own gain, while selling us more lies about the future.

Congress must do more to ensure that NAFTA 2.0 does not pass Congress unless and until it is improved to protect workers across North America.

Iowa deserves better. Let’s put a stop to this awful cycle.

Bob Morrison worked at the Siemens factory in Burlington for three decades until it closed last year. He is a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1010.


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