Another Day, Another Town Hurt by Trade


The Teamsters and other pro-worker allies have often talked about how lousy trade agreement enacted over the last two decades have gutted communities as manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. The latest example of that? Huntington, Indiana.

The Washington Post brilliantly sets the scene of what’s going in this 17,000-person Northeast Indiana town that for decades was home to numerous manufacturers. The wages those jobs paid allowed its residents to earn a wage high enough to buy a home and support a family in typical middle-class fashion.

But those are going away. Three months ago, United Technologies (UTEC) announced that its 800 jobs in town would soon be moved to Mexico, despite the fact that its parent company made more than $6 billion in annual profit. UTEC will be following partner factory Carrier in the move.

Huntington, known as “The Town That Works!”, is not so much so today. In recent years, Stride Rite and Breyers Ice Cream have also shuttered their plants.  And salaries have followed. Poverty is growing in town. Foreclosures are up, and so is drug usage. Tom Lewandowski, an Indiana union organizer, told the Post, “Despair is our business, and business is booming.”

Are these the benefits everyday Americans are supposed to be receiving from these trade deals? More than 20 years after the implementation of NAFTA, jobs are headed one way – south.  And it is devastating thousands of U.S. families along the way that now must struggle to make ends meet.

Manufacturing jobs have been the backbone of the American workforce. During the heyday of U.S. middle-class growth in the mid-20th century, millions toiled at work that may have been hard on the body, but brought home enough to support a family. That’s increasingly not the case anymore.

That’s why this union and others have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We just don’t see any value in what TPP brings to this country. First and foremost is the deal won’t create any new jobs here. That is significant and can’t be pushed aside by proponents. After all, TPP backers like to insist it will result in new work for Americans, although they can never quite explain how. There’s a reason why their responses are so vague.

Huntington is the latest town to experience the downside of trade. Workers must unite to make sure it is the last.