(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders wants to repeal a U.S. trade deal with China. He says the trade agreement has cost the country millions of good manufacturing jobs. Sanders held a news conference on Monday with Vermonters who were laid off recently because of low-cost competition from China.
VPR’s John Dillon has more.
(Dillon) When Congress granted normal trade relations with China three years ago, it lifted all tariffs and trade barriers. Sanders says the impact has been felt across the economy, with the U.S. losing 2.7 million manufacturing jobs in the last three years. In Vermont, the granite industry has been particularly hard hit by overseas competition.
Aaron Reilly is a 31-year-old crane operator who worked for International Stone Products in Barre. Reilly and about 50 other employees were laid off last month. He says the company buys more and more product from China and India.
(Reilly) “I thought I had a good paying job, my father worked there, my brother worked there. I’m like a third generation granite person. It really blew me out of the water when I heard that us, our jobs have been terminated. They told us on a Wednesday and on Friday the doors were going to be shut. I went from a $15 job an hour to nothing.”
(Dillon) Workers in Randolph have also seen their jobs move to China. Chester Phillbrick Jr. worked at Waterbury Companies in Randolph for four years.
(Phillbrick) “I thought we were doing great. I was a lead person, had 18 people under me. And then one day they called an emergency meeting, shut the whole plant down, brought us in to the cafeteria and the CEO-president of Waterbury Incorporated told us that as of the 26th of September 2003, that the Randolph plant would be closing down and that all our business would be going to China.”
(Dillon) Sanders expects the job losses to spread from the manufacturing sector to high tech industries. He says major computer companies are investing heavily in China and India. The congressman has introduced legislation that would repeal the trade deal with China. He says the political climate is beginning to change on the issue.
(Sanders) “So there is no question, no question that right now the momentum has switched, and that more and more people who were once free traders, who are now saying, ‘Wait a second, maybe this isn’t working for the middle class.'”
(Dillon) The Congressman says Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is one example of a politician who once supported free trade but now is much more skeptical. Sanders says his legislation to repeal the trade deal has 40 co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.