Steelworkers Say IMF Exploits Workers
Contact: Marco Trbovich (412) 562-2442
Pittsburgh -- In a speech today to the Ninth World Steel Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, United Steelworkers of America (USWA) international president Leo W. Gerard assailed the U.S. Treasury for supporting International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing plans for developing countries that exploit workers, drive up the U.S. trade deficit, and wipe out millions of American manufacturing jobs.
"The IMF, in which the U.S. Treasury has a powerful capital position," Gerard told the gathering, "is imposing financing plans on developing countries that strongly encourage worker exploitation.
"Unlike the path historically followed by industrialized countries, nations with distressed economies are forced by the IMF to give priority to export production instead of diversifying their domestic economies.
"In order to attract foreign investors, these countries are urged to weaken their labor laws, suppress wages and eliminate collective bargaining in the few places where meaningful labor laws actually exist."
Gerard asserted that the IMF's demand for austerity programs has undermined developing countries' domestic economies, resulting in a flood of imports in the United States, a prime cause of the loss of nearly two million American manufacturing jobs in recent years and the record $435-billion trade deficit in 2002.
"These are not random acts driven by market forces," he said. "They're calculated efforts, based on financing plans that often instigate political corruption and reap enormous returns for Western banking interests at enormous cost to workers and their communities."
He cited IMF policies as the culprit in the Asian financial crisis, which triggered subsequent financial crises in Russia and Latin America, and as the principle cause of the crisis in the American steel industry that
has driven 37 companies into bankruptcy, cost 85,000 Steelworkers their jobs, and wiped out the health care benefits of nearly 200,000 Steelworker retirees.
"The global trading system being enforced by the IMF," Gerard said, "is making it nearly impossible to overcome the worldwide over capacity in steel of some 300 million tons. And that beat keeps going at a record clip. In January, worldwide crude production of steel topped 76-million tons the highest every recorded in the first month of a year and nearly 11 percent higher than January of last year."
"The explosive growth of globalization," he concluded, "launched without considering the interests of workers or even producers has caused a downward spiral in primary metals' pricing and company profitability that's proving very hard to arrest.
"We take some solace in the fact that the tariffs the U.S. government imposed last year have stabilized prices somewhat, but we can have no peace of mind as long as our members and retirees continue to be the victims of
trading policies they had no voice in creating."
Citing the growing number of what Nobel Prize-winner and former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz has termed "IMF riots" by the citizens of nations being forced to comply with IMF policies, Gerard cautioned that "unless the IMF's policies change, the social unrest that's cropping up more and more in developing countries will sooner or later come home to roost in nations of the industrialized West."
- 194 World Financial Institutions