Can Social Media Fight 'Flawed' Trade Deals?

June 10, 2011
Machinists union creates campaign on Facebook to prevent passage of trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), 700,000 strong, is betting that social media can affect the future of some free trade agreements.

"Social media reaches a much wider audience at far lower costs than main street media. Across our various Facebook platforms we reach nearly 25,000 fans with every post. And that number keeps growing," Rick Sloan, IAM Communications Director told IndustryWeek.

Consequently, the group, which represents more than 5,000 contracts in aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, shipbuilding and defense-related industries, is taking its fight to save American jobs to the Internet.

On June 9 it launched an ad campaign that points out that since NAFTA took effect in 1994 682,900 U.S. jobs have been lost or displaced. The group fears this trend will continue if the U.S. goes ahead with trade deals with South Korea, Columbia and Panama.

The group specifically points to the effect that NAFTA has had on the U.S. economy. NAFTA created the world's largest free trade area, which now links 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The United States has $918 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with NAFTA countries (Canada and Mexico) during 2010. Goods exports totaled $412 billion; Goods imports totaled $506 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with NAFTA was $95 billion in 2010.

However, it's the loss of jobs that have resulted from this trade agreement that has the group concerned. "We're still reeling from the painful mess created by the NAFTA," said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. "NAFTA created the trend of corporations shifting production to countries where wages are low, worker rights nearly nonexistent and little regard is given to the environment. Like their predecessor, the three pending FTAs with South Korea, Colombia and Panama threaten to create the same kind of damage -- only more."

The AFL-CIO and many of its affiliates oppose these three trade agreements. They, too, are using social media to spread the word. And Sloan is encouraging his members to become active. "We've asked them to contact their Members of Congress," says Sloan.

To view the campaign click here.

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