The President's First Job is to Preserve the Middle Class

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Leading up to November 2016, many of us will listen to speeches, see advertisements and talk about an unprecedented number of Presidential candidates. The nation recently tuned in for the first of many debates to watch Republican hopefuls square off on a wide range of issues. While I'm heartened that some have already opened the dialogue on jobs and the middle class, every candidate vying for the American Presidency must understand and address the importance of protecting the American worker.

The American middle-class and good, honest jobs are being threatened every day across our country. According to the Economic Policy Institute, outsourcing to China alone cost the U.S. 3.2 million jobs from 2001 to 2013. Outsourcing is devastating to our manufacturing industry, where more than 51,000 factories closed from 1998 to 2008 and employment dropped from nearly 20 million in 1979 to just 12 million today.

Outsourcing also impacts the millions of jobs supported by manufacturing. For example, factories create jobs for Teamsters, who transport raw materials to plants and bring manufactured goods to retailers. Manufacturing in fact supports almost 18 million jobs in other economic sectors today. If the trend of sending work overseas continues, more and more middle-class jobs will be lost across industries and for Teamsters who depend on a healthy economy with a robust manufacturing sector. Further, with labor rights hundreds of years behind the U.S. and Europe around the world, many are given poor compensation for jobs in countries where corporations outsource to -- often in conditions that put workers' safety on the line.

Another pressing issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research, would reduce incomes for 90 percent of Americans while padding the fortunes of the wealthiest 10 percent. This deal could prove disastrous for certain industries, just like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cost thousands of American auto workers their jobs.

Moreover, this deal would abolish current measures protecting middle class workers from cheap overseas labor. While I certainly do not agree with a number of Donald Trump's positions, he is one candidate who said it right on the TPP, calling it "a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers" and "a huge set of hand-outs for a few insiders that don't even care about our great, great America." Interestingly, he's also proposed a 35 percent tax on every automobile and automobile part manufactured in Mexico by American companies to repair some of the damage caused by NAFTA and supported the implementation of a wealth tax to fund Social Security.

Trump's comments are in stark contrast to Scott Walker, another Republican candidate and current governor of Wisconsin whose attempt to deny public employees the right to collective bargaining resulted in widespread protests and a recall election in 2012. Since Walker took office, Wisconsin's public-sector union membership fell over 15 percent, greater than five points more than the state that saw the next largest decrease. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded to Walker's actions, stating Scott Walker is a national disgrace."

As President of Teamsters Local 237, I represent more than 24,000 public employees. Our members respond to life-threatening emergencies, provide services for the elderly, the disabled and school children. They maintain the public housing system and perform countless other essential tasks. While it's fortunate some Presidential candidates have begun the conversation on protecting jobs that Americans like those I represent rely on, issues like the TPP, outsourcing and more call for even greater scrutiny on anyone running for office.

The President's first job is to preserve the middle class. The 2016 election is crucial to the future of our country and I look forward to hearing more from each candidate on how they will protect the good, honest jobs our middle class needs to survive and thrive.