Left In Lowell

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May 25, 2012

Protect Employers Who Value Workers

by at 9:23 pm.

This popped up on Facebook, from Councilor Lorrey:

I will be on Warren Shaw’s radio show on WCAP at 7 am tomorrow. The discussion will center around my motion to have the proper department (law dept.) report on the feasibility of drafting a home rule petition to exclude out of state companies from being the successful bidder based solely on being the lowest bidder.

This topic was covered in the last City Council meeting (2:01:16).

I want to commend C.Lorrey for starting this converstation, locally. It would serve us well for it to find it’s way, through our delegation, to Beacon Hill. A quick Google of “resident bidder preference” & “reciprocity” will clearify any confusion that this doesn’t have a shot of passing in Boston. This sort of thing is growing across America, state by state.

Why?

Because some states value workers, thus “encouraging” the business community to invest in them. Other states, don’t.

If you own a business in a state that requires your employees to be professionally licensed, safety trained; insured for health, unemployment and disability, your cost of business will be higher than one that does not. If your state has good schools, homes with value, public safety services, taxes are higher. As the saying goes, good things don’t come cheap.

If work is bid out to companies that live in states that have lower median incomes, don’t value their workers and generally coerce worker to race to the bottom against other workers; then cost for the project is lower. The project cost is depressed on the backs of the workers and their qualilty of life.

Currently, companies from states like KY & TN are sending crews to build small ,private retail projects. These crews will spend over a year living in a hotel. IN A HOTEL and it is still cheaper. We have crews coming in from NH. The “NH Advantage” is a disadvantage to local firms. What should we do?

We should not mimic those states that seek to devalue labor. We do NOT want to race to the bottom. Let’s listen to what C.Lorrey and others have to offer on this issue.

February 5, 2009

The Buy American Clause

by at 5:06 pm.

A few days ago, I wrote about the EU response to the “Buy American” clause of the stimulus. And though I understand the impulse (”we’re spending American taxpayer money so it ought to be on American goods”) I’m not sure we’re ready for the consequences. A friend of mine in Canada sent these thoughts to me (via email). And yes, Canadians don’t put z’s in ize’d words. :)

I don’t think people realise the extent to which economies are intertwined today.

Take Plug Power for example … a company in upstate NY that supplies clean power solutions. They are the one bright light in a fairly depressed area of the state. They could play a huge rule in the various investments … particularly in mobile power sources. But if the Buy American clause passes they will be excluded from it and probably go bankrupt as a result. Why the exclusion? Although the delivery systems are built and assembled in NYC, the actual power pack is a hydrogen fuel cell designed and manufactured in BC by Ballard Power.

If you want to know the disastrous potential impacts look at the Smoot Hawley Tariff bill of 1930. It was brought into force to try and protect American jobs. Other nations slammed their own tariff barriers into place in retaliation and the value of world trade dropped by two thirds … that’s right … two thirds in the space of two years.

This whole buy American thing is a knee jerk reaction that doesn’t address the real problem of productivity. I mean the reason so many of your South East wood mills are unproductive is because they were protected by punitive tariffs on Canadian wood for so long that they didn’t need to upgrade … we had to upgrade just to compete … and the longer the tariff stayed in place the worse it got.

Anyway … instead of looking at the job losses I would like every American who works in an export related field to get a little note on their paycheck that shows just what portion of that comes from exports.

This is too simple a reaction to too complex a problem.

Now, my friend’s viewpoints are what are considered relatively conservative, at least in the pro-business sense, for Canada and British Columbia, specifically. But he knows a lot about these trade issues and he makes a very compelling point. It appears the Buy American clause did not get taken out of the Senate version of the stimulus in the latest round, so this is a very relevant discussion.

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