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It 2410 San Antonio St. 4006 South Lamar Blvd. 8868 Research Blvd. maepPar.ttemeeM :;t xles4okailaawiiicgaiArsoAkmei sokonerw. sacSir tniearmate. 144MAizatiahr1 4 is something new. It’s there like a big bird’s nest on the ground. HOW WOULD IT BE if we came up with a plan that would have the enthusiastic support of the labor movement, most manufacturing corporations, and those liberals who are inclined to make snide remarks about both unions and corporations? Now there would be a combination almost a conspiracy. It could be done, for we are facing an unusual combination of interests. A specter is haunting the United States: the specter of protectionism. Reagan has vowed to veto any protectionist legislation, and at the urging of some unions and corporations many Democrats are piddling down their legs trying to think of ways to do what they always fussed at Republicans for doing erect high tariffs or restrictive quotas to cut down on the importation of selected foreign goods. We need to hook onto this big locomotive that is coming through and get that runaway train on the right track. What this situation calls for is a Foreign Trade Fair Labor Standards Act. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, what is commonly known as the Wage and Hour Law, the one that sets the federal minimum wage and a number of other things such as a 40-hour week and time and a half for overtime. During the Depression so many millions of people were working for ten and fifteen cents an hour that Congress passed this law which required any company engaged in interstate commerce to raise its minimum wage to at least 25 cents an hour on October 24, 1938, and the following year on the same date to raise it to 30 cents an hour. By 1945 the minimum was 75 cents. Any company that short-changed a single worker had to pay that worker triple damages. It was a rough law, and it worked. All of a sudden a lot more people were able to buy things they were making. Companies that never needed to provide parking lots for employees’ cars had to put them in, and many workers began planning college for their kids. Why not retrace these same steps in foreign trade? This time we would not be dealing with interstate commerce but international commerce. Here’s how it might work, taking the maquiladoras for starters, since there is probably no other international border anywhere in the world where the disparity in per capita income between the people of -two countries is as great not in Africa, not in South America, not in the OPEC areas have over domestic producers. It says to foreign corporations that in exchange for their having access to the huge U.S. market they have to do for their employees what our own domestic corporations were required to do 50 years ago. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the big private banks very likely would take a dim, view of this proposal. They are the ones who dictate to foreign governments the imposition of wage restraints, reduced governmental budgets, limitations on imports, lessened taxes on the rich as conditions for granting or extending loans. They will have no part of the action in this. And, too, there will be credentialed economists who will want Every country has the sovereign right to restate their case on how all minimum to set its conditions of trade with wage laws violate what they regard as another. We sit at the table with the inviolate laws of economics. biggest stake of all just about every It would be useful if some who hold exporting country in the world wants that view would write to this journal and access to the huge United States market pick up the argument against this for its raw materials and goods. Simply proposal. Then we could discuss the having access to this market is a thing other precedents for doing what is of value. However, we are not dealing proposed here: the Sugar Act that long with countries in this proposal, just ago set prevailing wage standards on companies. Nothing has to be negotiated Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado sugar with the sovereign government of Mex beet growers in exchange for their ico. President de la Madrid doesn’t even having access to the strictly controlled have to come in on it, nor does Fidel world-wide sugar market, the Davis Velasquez, the 87-year-old head of the CTM, the Mexican Federation of Labor. The United States should do this on its on contractors who wanted access to the own. If it did, it would soon be market for constructing buildings and perceived as the bargaining agent for installations for the federal government, workers elsewhere in the world, and that and the National Industrial Recovery Act ought to redound to our credit when one considers how sinfully much of our minimum wages. I would testify about foreign military aid goes to autocratic how when that Blue Eagle of the NRA countries to keep their underpaid work first took off, the superintendent at the ers under control. cotton compress that continued to pay a dime an hour came around and said, “Now, if any government-type people come around and ask y’ all how much you’re making, you tell them two-bits an hour. Y’ hear?” We heard, all right. What we heard was that something out there was beginning to work for us. countries of the Middle East, not in the Far East, nor between Russia and its neighbors. It’s right there on our own back porch. The U.S. simply says to these 1,000 companies, “Sorry, after January 1st, unless you can show that you have raised the prevailing minimum wage of your employees a full 20 percent over the current inflation rate in Mexico, there will be these custom duties to pay.” Thus, a Foreign Trade Fair Labor Standards Act would not be asking any more of any foreign corporation than we asked of our own 50 years ago. We already impose a wide variety of other standards on the imports we accept standards of sanitation, safety, quality, grading of products, packaging, labelling, and so forth. This proposal just might get both protectionists and free-traders off the hook. It does not set any trade quotas, as was done a few years ago to jack up the price of new cars a thousand dollars, nor does it impose any new tariffs on named products. Yet, it will remove some of the advantage low-wage Nt in e t.v.woremr.vrvxwmrtestal . rprmevfie.mfei.”,k-c,….etsrosAticamvx-4.0untsolsi t. , Whole Earth 1 Provision Company I Nature Discovery Gifts amaze, inforth, delight Choose from our business or family gifts of lasting value, for all ages, price ranges and any occasion. Call or stop by and let us make suggestions. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13