[Congressional Record: September 5, 2001 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
REGARDING VISIT OF PRESIDENT BUSH AND PRESIDENT OF MEXICO VICENTE FOX
TO TOLEDO, OHIO
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Cantor). Under a previous order of the
House, the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur) is recognized for 5
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to include for the
Record a letter that was sent today by myself to both President Bush
and President Fox of Mexico.
Tomorrow will be an historic day here in this Chamber as we welcome
the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, to hear his remarks as the new
President of Mexico. Following that address, both Presidents will then
travel to our home district, the Ninth District of Ohio, the greater
With respect to their visit, we certainly want to extend an official
welcome to both Presidents on their historic journey, and we look
forward to their visit and to their remarks.
We also hope that both Presidents will listen and learn as our
citizenry attempts to draw them into a dialogue about the conditions of
workers and education in our region, and other concerns on the minds of
We hope that, building on this trip, more important than any single
day would be a request that we are sending to both Presidents to
establish a working relationship between their administrations in the
form of an intercontinental organization on working life and
cooperation in the Americas, to actually set up a means by which we
could deal with some of the unintended economic and social consequences
of NAFTA in both nations.
The serious dislocation of millions of industrial and agricultural
workers, as well as small- and medium-sized firms, demands serious and
compassionate action by those sworn to serve their fellow citizens.
In our own region of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, since NAFTA well over
115,000 more good-paying jobs have been lost to the maquiladora zone,
where workers in that region toil for hunger wages and have no job
Ohio is among the top five States losing jobs to NAFTA, and
nationally, since NAFTA, over 776,000 middle-class jobs have been
relocated to the maquiladora zone.
Most recently, Phillips Electronics in Ottawa, Ohio, where we hope
both Presidents will ultimately visit, is the latest plant that has
announced its shutdown of large portions of production, terminating
hundreds and hundreds of middle-class workers, those jobs going to
Spangler's Candy in Bryan, Ohio, announced it will shift its candy
cane line production to Mexico.
Last week in Chicago, Brach's Candy, employing 1,500 people, with a
major segment of Latino-American workers, announced it is shutting down
its centuries-old factory there and moving production south to Mexico,
or possibly Argentina.
The displacement of high-paying middle-class manufacturing jobs
across our country is fueled by NAFTA, and will only worsen if the
proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas ignores the plight of
workers. This is why we are pleading with both Presidents to set up a
formal mechanism that intercontinentally deals with these serious
distortions in our labor markets.
There are 3,200 firms in the maquilladora zone, and most of those
employ largely women workers, have no freely-lected labor
representation, no job security, and people work in high-productivity
The U.S.-Mexico border, meanwhile, is plagued more and more by
alarming rates of tuberculosis on both sides, sewage effluent flowing
into drinking water, moot environmental laws, and crumbling
infrastructure that cannot bear the load being placed on it.
The root causes of the illegal immigration crisis in our country lie
in deep and continuing disparity between the compensation and living
standards of workers on either side of the border. Our continent needs
a common minimum wage and common labor standards and common
environmental laws that are enforced.
The chart that I have here this evening gives some sense of what has
happened to the United States since NAFTA's passage. Prior to NAFTA's
passage, we had a favorable trade balance with Mexico, which means that
we were exporting more there than importing.
Since that time, what has happened is we have been racking up
historic deficits with Mexico, and in fact, Mexico has become the
export platform that we predicted. What the trade deficit translates
into are thousands and thousands of lost jobs from our country, and the
exports that go down there actually U-turn. They come back to us in the
form of finished goods.
But the wages of the people in Mexico have actually gone down since
NAFTA, and our wages have been stuck in this country for well over a
In the countryside in Mexico, over 30 million farm families have been
removed from their land simply because the trade agreement provides no
soft landing for people who have eked out a living on their small ajita
These people are moving across our continent. Hundreds and hundreds
are literally dying, some at our border, some inside our country. We
simply must have a task force on this international, intercontinental
organization that I am proposing to deal with this agricultural issue.
Mr. Speaker, we will invite both Presidents to travel with us to the
sites that I am talking about in both the United States and Mexico.
I include for the Record the formal letter we have sent to both of
them, along with an article from today's Los Angeles Times entitled
``Toledo's Plea to Presidents Bush and Fox: Don't let trade cost
The material referred to is as follows:
Toledo's Plea to Bush, Fox: Don't Let Trade Cost Jobs
(By Megan Garvey)
Toledo, Ohio.--Even as President Bush and Mexican President
Vicente Fox prepare to visit this industrial city known for
strong unions, ethnic neighborhoods and fierce opposition to
free trade, unemployment checks will be going out to workers
laid off at the Jeep plant.
Bush plans to come here Thursday to tout his commitment to
helping Mexican immigrants pursue the American dream and, the
White House says, ``again commemorate the very important role
that Mexicans and Hispanic Americans play in our American
With a Mexican American community that dates to the 1930s,
not many in Toledo have a problem with that.
They just think that it's beside the point.
The point--what concerns Toledo's white majority, its
sizable Mexican American population and even many of the
undocumented workers who harvest northwestern Ohio's tomato
and cucumber crops each year--is not immigration or culture.
To many in this gritty Great Lakes port on the southwest
tip of Lake Erie, free trade means the flight of jobs to low-
wage places like Mexico. And although the U.S. industrial
heartland has prospered in the years since the U.S.-Mexico
border was opened through the North American Free Trade
Agreement in 1994, Bush and Fox have chosen a dicey time to
come to Toledo: The manufacturing recession that began about
a year ago is taking its toll here.
And Ohio is losing jobs as companies move to Mexico for its
cheap, nonunion labor--from a Mr. Coffee plant that lost
about 320 jobs, to Amana's kitchen range plant where almost
645 more positions disappeared. Then there is
DaimlerChrysler's Jeep plant, where union workers who thought
they had guaranteed jobs are being laid off, even as the
company spends $300 million to expand its Toluca, Mexico,
plant to meet demand for the popular PT Cruiser.
``It's not about race or ethnicity,'' said Toledo native
Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat who has represented the area in
Congress for more than two decades. ``We're beyond all that.
It's about economics.''
Toledo officials, who bill their town as ``A Renaissance
City,'' have fought hard to keep jobs, cutting deals to
entice new auto industry investment and pushing for a
riverfront development zone, which is up for a vote.
Still, economic projections for the state and region show
job growth mainly in low-paying service industry jobs.
Manufacturing employment, long Toledo's backbone, has
declined. And like other Rust Belt cities, the decline in
high-paying manufacturing jobs translates into declining
population: The city of Toledo has lost more than 20,000
residents since 1990, according to the most recent census
While many here blame NAFTA, free-trade proponents point to
figures that show Ohio's exports to Mexico have risen from
$709 million annually to nearly $2 billion in the years since
the pact was concluded.
even migrants are losing work to mexico
At Tony Packo's Cafe, a Hungarian place on Toledo's east
side that makes it own hot dogs, the regulars say much the
``There is no doubt in anyone's mind here that free trade
has cost good jobs. No doubt,'' says Ken Oehlers, 59, a
retired teacher who grew up in the Old North End.
More surprising, perhaps, is that some of the migrant
Mexican farm workers who gather tomatoes in the wide, flat
field south of town for Heinz tomato paste, or cucumbers for
the Vlasic pickle plant, echo that view.
Wages are so low south of the border, pickers say, that
tomato-growing operations long based in the United States are
shifting to Mexico. So migrant workers who come to the U.S.
are losing out to Mexican workers back home.
In Toledo, local pride is important. Tony Packo's hot dogs,
a visitor quickly learns, were the favorites of the cross-
dressing Cpl. Klinger of ``MASH'' fame.
There is similar pride in the city's historical role in
building cars--pride now mingled with a sense of betrayal.
Workers think the new economy has not played fair with them,
that it has not abided by its own rules.
DiamlerChrysler's decision to eliminate 1,500 jobs when it
stopped manufacturing the Jeep Cherokee caught many local
politicians and United Auto Workers leaders by surprise.
A few years before, the city went to great expense to
persuade the auto maker to build a plant here to make the
Cherokee's replacement, the Jeep Liberty. The deal came with
massive tax breaks and other inducements, and, the people of
Toledo believed, the promise to keep 5,000 union jobs in
But shortly after the Liberty plant opened, the Cherokee
workers were laid off, rather than moved to other lines or
given their own line converted for another vehicle.
What particularly galls locals is the fact that those jobs
were cut even as the company has had trouble keeping up with
demand for its retro-style PT Cruiser. The Cruiser's
transmissions are made in Toledo, but the car is assembled in
``We had a line shut down here that put more than 1,000
people out of work,'' said Larry Jamra, 58, a business owner
who counts himself as one of the relatively few Toledo
voters who supported the Republican ticket in the last
presidential election. ``But that's NAFTA--it put every
business in a position of knowing they could do things for
half the price in Mexico, and that's just good business.''
Jamra grew up with Oehlers, the retired teacher, who says
most people in Toledo aren't mad at Mexicans about what's
happened. They're furious with the corporations.
``We don't see the standard of living being raised in
Mexico,'' Oehlers said, ``And wasn't that part of the point
of free trade?''
Juan Perez Quiroz, a 48-year-old Mexican working on
Toledo's rural outskirts, reflects what Oehlers and others
see as the problem: Wages remain so low in Mexico, despite
free trade, that coming north still pays, even for a low-wage
What's worse, even itinerant farm workers like Quiroz
apparently are being undercut by desperate workers back home.
Midday in the August heat, Quiroz stands idle in a tomato
When the pickers reported for duty at first light, the
current crop was judged too small, and most were sent back to
the camps for a forced day off; no pay.
Quiroz shrugs it off, having learned in the five years he
has been making the trip north from his home in Mexico that
this sometimes happens. College-educated, a retired
agricultural engineer with a modest government pension,
Quiroz still makes more in 12 to 16 grueling hours of packing
fresh tomatoes than he could back home.
A Question of ``Disbalance''
In Mexico his children are professionals: a lawyer, a
soccer player, a college professor and a plant manager.
Still, when he considered his own economic future, Quiroz
and his wife elected to make their way to U.S. farm fields
where he can get $10,000 for eight months' work, more than
three times what he could earn in the local tortilla factory
in Mexico--the best job he could find there.
Quiroz, who plans to go with other migrant workers to see
Fox and Bush speak, said he would tell his president that he
can't live a good life in Mexico for the wages he can get.
``The main problem in Mexico is the disbalance,'' Quiroz
said. ``The price of products is more than the wages paid.''
UAW local President Bruce Baumhower says he is up against
that too. ``Every one of the companies we've gone in to
bargain with said, `We could move down there and make it
[their product] for nothing.' '' Stories like his distress
Rep. Kaptur, whose constituents still recall the time she
took President Clinton to task for his position on trade,
embarrassing him onstage in 1996 as he stumped for president
in her hometown.
Kaptur--who has yet to hear from the White House about the
trip to her district--won't get an opportunity to speak her
mind when Bush and Fox visit a community center that serves a
largely Latino clientele, and then the University of Toledo,
where the presidents plan to speak about education.
Her feelings haven't changed, though.
``America's biggest internal conflict was the Civil War,
which was fought over the expansion of the slave system into
the West. All we've done with the trade issue is move the
border,'' she said.
Many of her concerns are shared by Mexican American leader
Baldemar Velasquez, whose Farm Labor Organizing Committee
represents about 7,000 migrant workers. Velasquez said his
members also believe the post-NAFTA economy has meant fewer
``People try to paint those who are anti-NAFTA as anti-
Mexican, and it's the exact opposite,'' Velasquez said. ``A
lot of these people can't see the forest through the trees.
Without organized labor you lose that necessary tension
between people driven to accumulate wealth and the workers
who help them do that.
``In Mexico there is no tension--and if we allow that to
become the standard then we are just going back in history.''
Many credit Velasquez's presence with keeping Toledo's
unions focused on economic disparities, not racial
differences. Toledo, in fact, has been used as a model for
other Midwestern cities grappling with rapidly expanding
Out in one of the cucumber fields, where the late-harvest
cucumbers have grown too large to be considered premium--
meaning small enough to be pickled whole--Velasquez talked
about economic realities.
Under a hard-fought bargaining agreement won by his
organization, workers get $28 per 100 pounds of premium
cucumbers picked, plus $6.20 an hour minimum wage. In Mexico,
the same yield would earn slightly more than $1 per day.
Velasquez agreed to participate in the presidential visit
despite having turned down invitations to the Clinton White
House out of fear, in his words, of being a prop, a ``wooden
His reason: the chance to talk about general amnesty for
``They can't come to town without hearing it from labor,''
``And I don't think they can talk about education without
talking about amnesty and workers' rights. When parents don't
have jobs or are underpaid or are hiding from immigration,
those are all fundamental issues when you are talking about
educating a child.''
House of Representatives,
Washington, DC, September 5, 2001.
President George W. Bush,
The White House,
President Vicente Fox,
Embassy of Mexico,
Dear President Bush and President Fox: During this Labor
Day week, and on behalf of our entire community, I extend an
official welcome to you both on your historic journey here
among us. We look forward to your visit and to your remarks.
We also hope you will listen and learn as our citizenry
``speak truth to power.'' Building on this trip, we look
forward to establishing a working relationship with your
respective Administrations to address continental issues of
mutual concern. Please let me propose the establishment of an
``Intercontinental Organization on Working Life and
Cooperation in the Americas.''
First and foremost, we seek your leadership and engagement
on the economic and social consequences of NAFTA in both
nations. The serious dislocation of millions of industrial
and agricultural workers, as well as small and medium sized
firms, demands serious and compassionate action by those
sworn to serve their fellow citizens. In our region (Ohio,
Michigan and Indiana) post-NAFTA, over 115,621 good paying
jobs have been lost to the maquiladora zone, where workers
toil for hunger wages and have no job security. Ohio is among
the top five states in our union losing jobs due to NAFTA
(37,694). Nationally, since NAFTA, over 776,030 middle class
jobs have been relocated to the maquila zone. Philips
Electronics in Ottawa, Ohio, the latest plant to announce a
shut down in production, will terminate hundreds of middle
class workers. Spangler's Candy, in Bryan, Ohio, has
announced it will shift some of its candy cane production to
Mexico. Last week in Chicago, Brach's Candy, employing 1,500
with a major segment of Latino-American workers, announced it
is shutting down its century old factory there, and moving
production either to Mexico or Argentina. The displacement of
high paying, middle class manufacturing jobs across the U.S.
is fueled by NAFTA, and will only worsen if the proposed Free
Area of the Americas agreement ignores the plight of workers.
With NAFTA and FTAA, only investment is given free rein in
our hemisphere. Our goal is ``Fair Trade, Free People.''
Meanwhile, 3,200 multinational firms located in the
maquiladora zone have shaped the modern scourge of the
dreaded sweatshop. Nearly one million Mexicans, largely
women, work in high productivity poverty, with no freely
elected labor representation, no job security. The U.S.-
Mexico border is plagued by alarming rates of
tuberculosis, sewage effluent flowing into drinking water,
moot environmental laws, and crumbling infrastructure that
cannot bear the load being placed on it. Grinding poverty
drives the immigration that is a primary subject of your
The root causes of the immigration crisis lie in the deep
and continuing disparity between compensation and living
standards of workers on either side of our border. Our
continent needs a common minimum wage and common labor
standards. Trade agreements MUST recognize and include labor
rights in the central bodies of their accords. No nation of
conscience should ignore the plight of the dispossessed, the
worker without representation, the small holders and
campeisinos and indigenous people who have no voice. As the
powerful force of capital moves across borders so must labor
have equal status in any economic accord. Further, NAFTA
remains seriously deficient in providing structural
adjustment assistance to cushion intercontinental economic
Trade relationships should yield mutually beneficial
economic and social benefits, not a legacy of growing
political instability. Our U.S. trade relationship with
Mexico is becoming increasingly distorted. Before NAFTA, the
U.S. held a $3 billion surplus with Mexico. Post NAFTA, the
U.S. surplus has turned into a growing cumulative deficit of
over $140 billion, with last year's record high of $30
billion. In Mexico, we have witnessed the devaluation of the
peso, wage cutbacks, and now job terminations in the maquias
due to a U.S. economic slowdown. Indeed, northern Mexico has
become the low wage export platform to the U.S. that
opponents of NAFTA predicted. Nearly 90% of maquila
production is exported back to the U.S. (and nearly the same
from our Canadian counterparts) as Mexico becomes a vast
importer of goods from Asia. Long term, this is an economic
relationship that is damaging to our continent. The current
economic arrangement means the workers of Mexico cannot
afford to buy what they make, and their U.S. counterparts
lose their living wage jobs as the downward pressure on
remaining jobs continues unabated. High productivity poverty
with hunger wages in Mexico and displaced U.S. workers do not
good neighbors make. As the slogan reads, justice must come
to the maquiladoras.
In the countryside, the story is even worse. Over 30
million Mexican farmers are being cruelly uprooted from their
historic lands. This is a continental sacrilege of enormous
proportions. Some, understandably, escape across our border.
Some die in the Arizona desert. Others seek shelter in Mexico
City's sprawling metropolis as overextended local services
strain under the crush of rapid population growth. Last year,
over 360 Mexicans seeking refuge or work died at our border.
What kind of cruel economic system is it that tramples on
their humanity and pits then against farmers and workers in
our countryside who have labored for a century to gain
sustenance and a decent way of life, collective bargaining
rights, and dignity in the work place? An Intercontinental
Agricultural Working Committee must be included as a key
component of the Intercontinental Organization I propose.
President Bush, I understand that during your visit to our
community you seek to discuss ``common problems on our
border, problems with drug interdiction, problems with
environmental issues, problems with water and immigration.''
I can assure you that every single one of these problems
arises from a flawed NAFTA agreement that leaves working
people and the social compact out of the investment equation.
It took our nation nearly a century, and a Civil War, to
reject a form of indentured servitude in which workers were
chattel. Our society still bears the scars of that war. In
Mexico, I have witnessed the fear of workers bound to an
economic system in which they hold no independent voice,
where independent collective bargaining for the value of
their work is impossible, and where their hard work and high
productivity yield only more poverty. Here at home, I have
witnessed our middle class workers who have struggled to
build a way of life have the rug pulled out from under them
by forces beyond their control. This surely cannot be your
blueprint for our continent in this new millennium.
Something is seriously wrong when workers do not earn
enough to buy what they make. It troubles me greatly that in
Toluca, Mexico workers who assemble the popular PT Cruisers
for DaimlerChrysler do not earn a living wage; every single
one of the cars they build are shipped to the U.S.
Reciprocally, it bothers me greatly that Toledo's
DaimlerChrysler workers who attempted to bid on some portion
of backlogged PT Cruiser production were summarily turned
down. Since all the production from the Toluca plant is sent
through the backdoor into the U.S., why shouldn't the workers
in both plants be covered by the same collective bargaining
agreement, along with their supplier firms? Otherwise, all
that production yields from a continental standpoint is a
race to the bottom for the workers.
Equally, in the countryside, it troubles me that northwest
Ohio's fresh tomato and pickle businesses are increasingly
threatened by Sinaloa plants and packing sheds. Yet field
workers in both nations have no hope of a better life as
their production is pitted against one another and they
compete for survival wage jobs. Again, our continent needs an
open forum in which to address and grapple with these serious
Finally, I extend to you both an invitation to travel with
bipartisan delegations from both countries. Let us tour U.S.
and Mexican production sites, industrial and agricultural.
Let us freely hear from the workers. Let us for the sake of
the common good explore openly the dimensions of NAFTA that
must be repaired. Let us do what is just. We should strive
for an intercontinental accord that elevates our people, not
exploits them, that uses the power of economic development
and the marketplace to spur the necessary social and physical
infrastructure to build great nations and treat our people
Pope John Paul II captured the essence of the challenge
before us when he wrote:
``The market imposes its way of thinking and acting and
stamps its scale of values upon behavior.''
``What is happening is that changes in technology and work
relationships are moving too quickly for cultures to respond.
Social, legal and cultural safeguards are vital.''
``Globalization often risks destroying these carefully
built up structures, by exacting the adoption of new styles
of working, living and organizing communities.''
``Globalization must not be a new version of
The Pope stressed that on its course towards globalization,
humanity cannot do without an ethical code which must be
``wholly independent from financial, ideological or political
partisan views. . . . Humanity can no longer do without a
common code of ethics.''
To this end, I would dedicate my full energies, as would
the people of our community.
Member of Congress.
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