Democratic candidates in 24th District call for tougher job legislation
At a forum hosted by the Greater Syracuse Labor Council, AFL-CIO in Syracuse Wednesday, the three candidates running in the Democratic primary for New York's 24th Congressional District said the strength of labor unions have been decimated in recent decades and argued for tougher federal legislation to protect them and other domestic jobs.
Syracuse lawyer Steve Williams, Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson and former Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) staffer Colleen Deacon all blamed international trade alliances, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for the loss of American jobs to other countries.
"Because of NAFTA, the jobs -- GM, Chrysler, all of the manufacturing jobs that have left this region for a long time -- has had a huge impact on the working families of this district," Deacon said.
She called for tougher legislation and taxes on foreign imports to ensure higher-wage American jobs are not lost to cheap labor in other countries.
"Making sure that we're not allowing countries like China to import their auto parts because they subsidize their auto parts and we can't compete," Deacon said. "We have to level the playing field."
Williams said the federal government should crack down on companies that ship their operations overseas in search of cheaper labor.
"I represented a class of people in a Fair Labor Standard Act lawsuit because they weren't being paid a fair wage and I won for them and I recovered," Williams said. "And then later, that corporation moved its manufacturing facility to an underdeveloped nation where they paid their people dirt. We have to stop that."
Williams said part of the declining wages in the country are due to right-to-work laws zapping union strength. Those laws, passed in a handful of states, free union employees from having to contribute union dues.
Kingson argued for bolstering existing labor laws that protect the health, safety and bargaining abilities of unions.
"We have a number of very important labor acts that we need to nourish, bring forward and protect against the onslaught and the ongoing effort to rip them apart," Kingson said.
He also said the U.S. should expand "economic security" entitlement programs to lift up the middle and working classes, such as social security and Medicare.
Voters will decide in the primary June 28 which of the three Democrats will challenge incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus).