The Multinational Monitor


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A Vote Against Free Trade

A MAJORITY OF U.S. RESIDENTS believe free trade pacts lead to fewer U.S. jobs and that the United States should not approve new trade agreements with Latin American countries, according to a national poll commissioned by BankBoston in the final days of the 1996 election.

BankBoston periodically conducts public opinion polls in order to gauge public views on issues of concern to business. BankBoston has significant Latin American operations, and is a major backer of expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to cover all of Latin America.

BankBoston representatives cited the poll results to encourage business leaders to undertake a comprehensive free-trade advocacy effort.

"It is clear that any effort to liberalize trade agreements even in our own hemisphere will require an intensive educational campaign because most people are profoundly skeptical of trade pacts," says Ira Jackson, BankBoston executive vice president.

"The burden of proof rests squarely on those who believe trade agreements can open up foreign markets to U.S. exports and create jobs at home," Jackson says. "If we are to succeed in creating the world's largest free trade zone, we must be prepared to address perceptions that free trade is a loser for most Americans."

A majority of poll respondents (54 percent) said they believe trade accords do more to increase foreign imports than U.S. exports; 23 percent said they believe trade agreements cause a net increase in U.S. jobs. A majority (52 percent) also said their views of free trade are less favorable than a year ago; less than a quarter (23 percent) said their opinions are more favorable.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they believe the U.S. government should not approve new trade pacts with Latin American countries, while 36 percent said they favor new agreements.

Bridgestone/Firestone Settles

UNDER PRESSURE from a coordinated global corporate campaign, Bridgestone/ Firestone agreed in November to settle a longstanding labor dispute with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).

The dispute traces back to a 10-month strike conducted by Bridgestone/Firestone workers -- then represented by the United Rubber Workers, a union which has since merged with the USWA -- in 1994.

In one of the more vicious U.S. labor disputes of the 1990s, Bridgestone/Firestone replaced the striking workers with scabs. When the rubber workers called off the strike in May of last year, the company refused to rehire all of the strikers.

Soon after, the rubber workers merged with the USWA, which launched an international solidarity campaign to force the company to rehire those strikers who did not get their jobs back. The Bridgestone/Firestone workers picketed company stores, held a protest at the Indy 500 auto race, documented widespread health and safety and labor law violations in company facilities, and received support from workers worldwide who wrote letters and held protests on their behalf.

"In a long dispute like this, there are no victors," says USWA President George Becker. "However, I am pleased to announce that the union succeeded in achieving the major goals that we have pursued."

The agreement requires Bridgestone/Firestone to rehire the union members who have not been called back to work, provide all workers with an immediate 40 cents-per-hour wage hike and a 1999 35 cents-per-hour wage increase and improve pension and health benefits.

The agreement also includes major worker concessions, however, including a provision establishing that hourly employees will work three 12-hour days one week and four 12-hour days the next.

Gambling/Chainsaw Updates

THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY hit a bad run on November 5. Most of the gambling referenda held in states and towns across the United States, including the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment (see "A Bad Bet: Casino Economics and the Politics of Gambling," Multinational Monitor, November 1996), lost.

In the most watched of the nation's gambling contests, Ohio voters rejected their state's gambling proposal by 36 percentage points. Voters in Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas also rejected gambling proposals.

West Virginia and Arizona voters decided in favor of gambling expansion, and, in a major surprise, Michigan residents voted to permit gambling in Detroit. In Louisiana, voters threw out gambling from more than half of the state's parishes, but voted in support of river boat gambling and a land casino in New Orleans.

LESS THAN FOUR MONTHS AFTER AL DUNLAP took over as chief executive officer of the Sunbeam Corporation, company employees have fallen victim to a much-anticipated chainsaw massacre (see "Behind the Lines," Multinational Monitor, September 1996).

In November, Dunlap announced he was letting go half of Sunbeam's 12,000 employees, either through layoffs or sales of divisions. Approximately 3,000 of the employees will be dismissed before the end of the year.

Dunlap earned the nickname "Chainsaw Al" for slashing more than 10,000 workers at Scott Paper, the company he most recently headed prior to taking the Sunbeam position.

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