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 (Updated: June 1, 2000)

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 John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO 


   Let me begin by thanking the editors of the Common Ground Initiative Report for organizing this exchange of opinions about globalization.
   The AFL-CIO is often accused of opposing engagement with the international economy. These accusations are wrong. We support engagement but insist that working people everywhere share in the benefits. Trade agreements must be designed so that they promote rising living standards.
    Today's labor movement talks of a rules based international economic order. That notion girds my own call for a "new internationalism" aimed at sharing the blessings of the global market, while outlawing its brutalities. Underlying this vision is a recognition that the global economy is not a natural outgrowth of the workings of an invisible hand. It is an act of man. 
    Such a view contrasts with that of our critics who see the economy as a product of nature. They argue that globalization is like the tide, and we can do nothing about it. We must accept whatever happens because it is given by nature. This is economic fatalism.

    The message of economic fatalism is contradicted by our own economic history. The creation of the modern American economy required new rules and institutions. In the 1930s, labor law gave workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively. Minimum wage and child labor laws have helped prevent exploitation. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration ensures work place safety, while the Environmental Protection Agency helps secure a clean environment. The Federal Reserve oversees the banking system, while the SEC ensures probity in financial markets. The FDA ensures the safety of the food supply, while the FAA ensures the safety of air travel. These laws and institutions stand at the core of our own success. Just as the creation of a unified national economy required new rules and institutions, so too does the global economy. Though the exact details will differ, our own history points the way. 
     Accusations of Ludditism and protectionism miss the point. History and economic logic are on the side of the new internationalism. At the beginning of this century, the industrial revolution created new promise and glaring inequalities. It took many decades - and wars, revolutions and a Great Depression - to elaborate the protections that saved that system from itself. Now at the beginning of the 21st century, the global economy poses the same challenge.

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