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GLOBALIZATION: IDENTIFYING THE REAL CHALLENGE
John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO
1999Let 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.
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