In his latest executive order signing, US President Donald Trump directed US federal agencies to implement the “Buy American, Hire American” mandate that was the cornerstone of his election campaign. During a visit to of the headquarters of Snap-On Tools, in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week, Trump lauded American “grit and craftsmanship while calling the NAFTA trade deal a complete and total disaster. “This order will protect workers,” he said. According to US Administration officials, both Buy American and Hire American rules have been enormously diluted over time resulting in many lost job opportunities for American workers.
But while Trump views NAFTA as a complete and total disaster for American workers, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for Canadian workers either. Manufacturing in southern Ontario has been decimated by NAFTA, eliminating a stable branch plant economy that had been in place for decades. Before NAFTA, if you wanted to sell your products in Canada you often had to build them here or pay a tariff and southern Ontario was where you built them. Without tariffs, plants moved south to Mexico or offshore to China in the name of cheap labour and higher profits, factories closed and thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost, many of them good paying Machinists jobs. Manufacturing in Quebec has suffered a similar fate, the closure of Electrolux in Montréal took 1100 Machinists jobs and moved to Tennessee – a right to work state with non-union labour and attractive tax incentives.
So it wasn’t surprising at the recent IAM Transportation Conference in Las Vegas, that IAM Canadian General Vice-President Stan Pickthall took the opportunity to remind our US brothers and sisters of the impact “Buy American” can have on their IAM members north of the border.
“We are your largest trading partner, home to 40,000 IAM members. We are not China,” said Pickthall. “No one wants see one of our members lose their job on either side of the border, no one wants to save one IAM job at the expense of another. We must work together.”