‘Buy American’ movement is back in business

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The president of the United Auto Workers union declared Thursday that the “buy American” movement is back in business, praised President Trump for criticizing outsourcing and reiterated his call for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

UAW President Dennis Williams told reporters he’s “in discussions” to air TV commercials promoting the “buy American” movement and wants to make it easier for consumers to identify foreign-made vehicles at car dealerships.

“We’re seeing a trend in this country — the boycott may be coming back,” Williams said, saying the “buy American” push is gaining steam for the first time in “many, many years.”

He added: “If it was not built in the United States, don’t buy it.”

For a union that doesn’t allow foreign-made vehicles in the parking lots of its Detroit headquarters, it’s nothing new to encourage Americans to buy cars made in the U.S.

But paired with Trump’s public campaign to get manufacturers to relocate foreign manufacturing jobs in the U.S., the union’s longstanding policy has taken on a new urgency.

While criticizing Trump’s environmental, immigration and labor policies, Williams reiterated his support for Trump’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA, which union workers blame for bolstering Mexican manufacturing.

“He’s been the first president that has addressed this issue. I’m gonna give him kudos for that,” Williams said.

The union, which almost exclusively backs Democrats at the ballot box, reported that an internal study showed 59% of its members voted for Hillary Clinton, while 33% voted for Trump and 8% cast ballots for others or didn’t vote.

Williams said that if manufacturers shifted all production of vehicles currently made in Mexico and sold to Americans to the U.S., they would have to construct about 17 assembly plants here. He assailed the automaker for what he called “deplorable,” low-paying conditions at Mexican factories.

Meanwhile, Williams also reiterated that the group is in the early stages of coordinating a campaign to organize Tesla’s electric-vehicle assembly plant in California, the only U.S. automaker plant that’s not unionized.

He said he had concerns about conditions at the plant and criticized Tesla CEO Elon Musk for attacking a worker who spoke out in favor of the union.

Tesla has rejected claims that its employees are overworked and that dissension is stifled.

“This is not the first time we have been the target of a professional union organizing effort such as this,” Tesla said in a statement before Williams’ press conference. “The safety and job satisfaction of our employees here at Tesla has always been extremely important to us.”

Nathan Bomey

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