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Organized labor's Trump predicament

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Update time : 2017-02-27 17:22:23
Organized labor's Trump predicament
How to back him on NAFTA, without sacrificing other goals

Empty factory floors. High-paying jobs shipped to Mexico and overseas. Once-thriving Rust Belt towns hollowed out and left for dead.
Those are the images Donald Trump painted during his unlikely rise to the presidency. Trump was describing what he saw as the effects of decades of poorly negotiated free-trade deals, presenting himself as an economic nationalist who would bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
In describing free trade as harmful to the American worker, Trump aligned himself with the longtime view of organized labor, which has fought free trade for decades, even as presidents they endorsed signed new agreements into place.
Now, as Trump pursues his renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, labor unions such as the UAW find themselves in a precarious spot: How do they work with the president to pursue their decades-long goal of overhauling NAFTA while maintaining enough distance to oppose him on a variety of other measures?
The answer could have ramifications for how the UAW approaches Trump over the next four or eight years -- and to the potential alliances unions could strike with traditional foes.
UAW President Dennis Williams told reporters this month that he plans to set up a meeting with the president to discuss NAFTA.
"Corporations have been taking advantage of cheap labor here in North America, which is something, quite frankly, the American people are fed up with," Williams said, echoing critiques Trump has made in the past. The UAW had endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the presidential race and campaigned against Trump.
"Changes to NAFTA will fundamentally affect the auto industry, and that's a core interest of the UAW," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry, Labor and Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research. "It's not surprising that they would want to get involved" in discussions with Trump.
Friendliness with Trump on trade, if not elsewhere, even extends north of the border to Canada, where Unifor President Jerry Dias says Trump's trade talk has blown open the doors to renegotiate NAFTA.

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