American Labor Leader Says Trade with Israel Benefits U.S. Workers

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Seth Eisenberg, an elected official representing one of America's largest labor unions, says the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area Agreement benefits American workers. The labor leader is in Israel for a fact-finding mission to study the availability of American-made products in the market. During his visit, Eisenberg is encouraging Israeli entrepreneurs to increase efforts to introduce U.S. manufactured products to their marketplace.

A national official of one of America’s largest labor organizations said today that the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area agreement is good for American workers. Seth Eisenberg, chairman of the United Auto Workers Technical, Office and Professional Department Advisory Council, said he was impressed to find American-made products available to consumers throughout the Israeli marketplace.

"America's leading industries are well represented throughout Israel," Eisenberg said after three days of visits to some of the nation’s leading retail, technology and manufacturing facilities. "In every segment of the Israeli economy, you see significant examples of America’s influence."

Eisenberg said he was particularly impressed to see Israeli spin-offs of American television series. "From the concept of ESPN sports to Hollywood game shows and much more, Israelis are eager partners for American goods and services," he said.

Traditionally, American labor groups have been opposed to America’s free trade agreements and reduced tariff treaties because of the short-term impact on American factories and their workers. "Israel is unique," the American labor leader said. "America and Israel are democracies with a common commitment to the rule of law, political expression, the sanctity of human life and the rights of workers. Whether you look at the Israeli labor movement, environmental regulations, standard of living or practically any other national measure, Israeli industry and society closely mirrors values held dear by American workers."

Before returning to the U.S. at the end of the week, Eisenberg will hold private meetings with Israeli entrepreneurs and industrialists to learn from their personal experiences introducing American products and technologies to the country.

While he praises the open nature of the Israeli market, Eisenberg said he remains concerned that government bureaucracy sometimes makes introducing American products to Israel unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming.

"Israel may be one of America’s closest friends and allies in the world," Eisenberg said, "but with under seven million consumers, it remains a relatively small market."

"While the Israeli government has a clear responsibility to protect consumers, bureaucratic red tape can become a hidden barrier to free trade. It's important to see the country's political leaders recognize their responsibility to assure systems are in place to facilitate the import of goods and services from America. Extended delays and red tape often comes at too high a price for the spirit and cause of trade relationships between our countries."

Eisenberg said his findings will be reported to the union’s leadership later this summer. He expects his report will be instrumental in developing the labor organization’s future positions on issues involving trade between America and Israel.

"American labor strongly endorses the potential of fair trade, which is often quite different than the concepts of 'free trade' regularly touted by international trade officials as they promote expanded treaties in South and Central America.

"After 20 years," Eisenberg added, "the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area Agreement appears to be an exceptional model that meaningfully benefits workers and consumers in both nations."

About UAW:

UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations.

The UAW has approximately 710,000 active members and over 500,000 retired members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

There are more than 950 local unions in the UAW. The UAW currently has contracts with some 3,200 employers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

A solid majority of the union's half-million retirees stay actively involved in the life of their union, participating in some 700 retiree chapters and playing a vital role in the UAW's community action program.

Since its founding in 1935, the UAW has consistently developed innovative partnerships with employers and negotiated industry-leading wages and benefits for its members. UAW members have benefited from a number of collective bargaining breakthroughs, including:

  • First employer-paid health insurance plan for industrial workers
  • First cost-of-living allowances
  • Pioneering role in product quality improvements
  • Landmark job and income security provisions
  • Comprehensive training and educational programs

From its earliest days, the UAW has also been a leader in the struggle to secure economic and social justice for all people. The UAW has been actively involved in every civil rights legislative battle since the 1950s, including the campaigns to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 and legislation to prohibit discrimination against women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

UAW also has played a vital role in passing such landmark legislation as Medicare and Medicaid, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Employee Retirement Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. In Washington and state capitols, the UAW is fighting for better schools for kids, secure health care and pensions for retirees, clean air and water, tougher workplace health and safety standards, stronger worker's compensation and unemployment insurance laws and fairer taxes.

The UAW's commitment to improve the lives of working men and women extends beyond America’s borders to encompass people around the globe. Through vigilant political involvement and coordination with world labor organizations, UAW fights for enforcement of trade agreement provisions on human and worker rights, fair labor standards and a new approach to international trade -- one that raises the quality of life for working people worldwide.

About the Technical, Office and Professional Department:

Known as TOP, the UAW’s technical, office and professional department is one of the labor movement's fastest growing. The department includes nearly 100,000 workers, representing approximately 15 percent of the UAW’s membership. Members include workers at manufacturing companies as well as in the public sector, health care, schools and universities, telecommunications and news media. They work in a wide range of occupations, including draftsmen, industrial designers, engineers, graphic designers and illustrators, computer specialists, health care professionals, social service workers, journalists and writers, curators and librarians, graduate teaching assistants and state and local government employees.

These include Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky state employees; service, clerical, technical and graduate student employees at more than 20 colleges and universities; artisans at Greenfield Village; the staffs of The Village Voice, Mother Jones, and The Stamford Advocate; technical and on-air staff of WDET, Detroit’s public radio station; workers at the three Detroit casinos, staff lawyers of the Legal Services Corporation; and more than 5,000 members of the National Writers Union.

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Pat Zillian USA (954) 389-2296